Assistance Dogs

Last updated: 
4 September 2020

RAP Schedule no.

BH01 to BH05 [refer to RAP Schedule]

Definition

Assistance dogs, that is, dogs which fall within the definition of 'assistance animal' in section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and which meet the standards set out by Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

These dogs are individually trained in obedience, can perform at least three defined tasks that mitigate the veteran’s (also referred to as the handler) impairment and can pass a Public Access Test (PAT).

Psychiatric Assistance Dogtrained specifically to perform tasks which contribute to the clinical goals of their handler. This could include detecting signs of distress and performing tasks to help alleviate those symptoms. For example, waking the handler if they are experiencing a night terror, or nuzzling the handler to distract them from emotionally disabling symptoms.

Guide Dog - trained specifically to assist a blind or visually impaired person’s mobility and independent living.  These dogs are trained to travel on public transport and support the recipient in public settings. 

Hearing Dog - trained specifically to assist hearing impaired individuals by alerting them to environmental sounds such as alarm clocks, kitchen timers, presence of other persons, smoke and fire alarms and approaching vehicles. Hearing dogs are trained to make physical contact and lead their deaf partners to the source of the sound. 

Mobility/Service Dog - trained specifically to help persons with mobility impairment to achieve an optimal level of functional independence in activities and enhance participation in society.  These dogs are trained to perform multiple tasks such as retrieving items, activating switches, opening and closing doors.  They do not replace a carer but may reduce caring needs significantly and are trained to support the recipient in their home and the community.

Please Note: DVA does not provide companion or emotional support dogs. An assistance dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the veteran’s disability, while a companion or emotional support dog provides comfort and coping assistance to an individual.

Eligibility

 

The DVA client must have an assessed clinical need and a:

  • Gold card; or
  • White card

Additional criteria

Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Mobility/Service Dogs
Guide, mobility and hearing dogs will only be supplied if the medically assessed clinical need for the dog is due to their war caused injury or disease/condition. This applies to both Gold and White Card holders. Clients also need to be assessed as clinically stable and suitable for the supply of an assistance dog.

Psychiatric Assistance Dogs
In addition to having a gold or white card the client needs to:

  • have an accepted condition or diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder from a psychiatrist;
  • be undergoing treatment with a psychiatrist or psychologist for posttraumatic stress disorder for at least three months; and
  • be assessed as clinically stable and suitable for the supply of a psychiatric assistance dog.

For all Assistance Dogs  - Stability and suitability for the purpose of an assistance dog, requires the client to demonstrate the following:

  • living arrangements in place, the ability and support networks to properly care for the dog;
  • no history of domestic violence or history of animal abuse, this includes all members of the household;
  • no admissions to hospital for suicide attempt/s or self-harm behaviour in the past 12 months; and
  • no misuse of drugs or alcohol in the past 12 months (as far as the prescriber is aware).

If the client is a resident of an aged care home / retirement village / lifestyle park - The client or prescriber needs to seek an ‘in principle agreement’ from the home/village/park operator at the time of submitting the request.

The home/village/park operator needs to sign the relevant section of the D9356 - Request for an Assistance Dog Form or provide a letter stating they:

  • understand the assistance dog is provided to the client for therapeutic purposes;
  • agree to the dog residing with the client in the aged care home /village/lifestyle park;
  • have the capacity and ability to support an assistance dog within their facility to ensure their welfare is protected;
  • have facilities that allow for the walking and toileting of the assistance dog; and
  • understand that the ‘in principle agreement’ is supporting the client’s request for an assistance dog but in no way guarantees the provision of an assistance dog and that the request still needs to be considered and approved by DVA and the assistance dog supplier.

Prescribing

Suitably qualified health provider

Assistance dogs must be prescribed by a suitable qualified health provider.

These include for a:

Psychiatric Assistance Dog, these include:

  • Psychiatrist (Psychiat);
  • Psychologist (Psych);
  • Mental Health Occupational Therapist (MH OT); and
  • Mental Health Social Worker (MH SW).

Guide Dog:

  • a Low vision clinic (LVC); or an
  • appropriate Specialist(S).

Hearing Assistance Dog an:

  • Audiologist(A)
  • Occupational Therapist (OT);
  • Audiometrist (AT); or an
  • appropriate Specialist(S).

Mobility Assistance Dog:

  • Occupational Therapist (OT); and an
  • appropriate Specialist(S).

Prior approval

Prior approval is required for the supply of all assistance dogs.

Psychiatric Assistance Dogs
Conditional approval is granted by DVA after considering the selection criteria information provided on the application form and The World Health Organisation – Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0)
The second stage of the approval process is the suitability assessment conducted by the contracted assistance dog supplier.

For all dogs assistance dogs
The actual provision of an assistance dog is subject to ongoing suitability and compliance of the client. This includes the client’s on going willingness to participate in the training program and their ability to ensure the living arrangements and welfare of the dog is maintained.

DVA needs to ensure all assistance dogs are placed into environments that work in the best interests of the client and the dog and that both are safe. DVA will not consider requests that have the potential to put the dog or client at risk.

Deciding on the most appropriate item

Assessing health providers should consider:

  • how an assistance dog would assist the veteran in achieving therapeutic goals;
  • whether the client understands the commitment in training and caring for an assistance dog; and
  • if the client’s living arrangements, support network and life circumstances (presence of stressors, e.g. having pregnant person or young child in client’s household) are conducive to caring for an assistance dog.

For psychiatric assistance dogs in addition to above
Assessing health providers must administer the World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0). This is a 12-question measure to assess level of functioning and should take the prescribing health provider five (5) minutes to conduct this interview with the client.

This is to be submitted to DVA with the completed Request for an Assistance Dog Form and any other supporting information.

The WHODAS provides a baseline measure, which will be administered at specified milestones  (3, 6, 12 and 24 months) after the dog has been provided to the client, in order to monitor outcomes of the program. The client will be encouraged to complete the self-assessment on each milestone and submit electronically through Qualtrics.

Requesting the Assistance Dog, conditional approval, training and ongoing prescriber involvement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The suitably qualified health provider should complete the D9356 - Request for an Assistance Dog Form
  2. a) For Guide, Hearing and Mobility Dogs - Please forward the completed form and assessment to DVA rapgeneralenquiries [at] dva.gov.au for consideration.
    b) For Psychiatric Assistance Dogs – Conduct a (WHODAS 2.0)- 12 question assessment and forward the completed form and WHODAS 2.0 assessment to DVA rapgeneralenquiries [at] dva.gov.au for consideration.
  3. Following receipt of your request a DVA Health Adviser will review the form and any other supporting information.
  4. If approved, DVA will advise the prescriber and client of the conditional prior approval.
    If not approved, DVA will advise the prescriber of the reasons, and ask the client to make an appointment to discuss the decision with their clinician. 
  5. Once conditionally approved, DVA will then organise a contracted supplier of assistance dogs to conduct suitability assessment  to ensure that the client understands the requirements of the program, is physically capable it undertake the program has appropriate living arrangements in place and the ability and support networks to properly care for the dog.
    This assessment gives the dog supplier an opportunity to better understand the client’s needs and clinical goals, so they can design the training program and match a suitable dog.
  6. Depending on demand, the client may be placed on a waiting list and the dog supplier will make contact with the client to keep them informed of the progress of their request.
  7. Once a suitable dog is available the dog supplier will contact the client to discuss and develop a training schedule for both the dog and the client. The training schedule may take up to 18mths before the dog commences living with the client.
  8. The dog supplier will ask the client to make a commitment to training and the program. The supply of the dog is conditional on compliance with training. The dog supplier will monitor attendance and training progress and report to DVA any concerns. DVA will set up a case conference to address these concerns, if they arise, with the prescriber, client and dog supplier.

Handover of the dog to the client
At a suitable time within the training program the dog and client will commence an annual Public Access Test (PAT). The annual PAT is a minimum standard for guide, hearing and assistance dogs to be certified. This confirms that the dog is safe and effective in public places, public passenger vehicles and places of accommodation and is able to be physically controlled by the client, as the primary dog handler.

The client is required to obtain pet insurance with a reputable provider with top level cover (including routine care benefit, and dental) for their psychiatric assistance dog.  It is also recommended that the veteran have home and contents insurance which will cover their dog for legal liability. Only pet insurance will be reimbursed by DVA.

Ongoing outcome monitoring of the psychiatric assistance dog program
After handover of the assistance dog to the client at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months the client will be asked to complete the World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0) as an ongoing measure of the outcomes of the program. This is a 12-question assessment which will be sent to the veteran to complete online. Aggregated data will be collated to provide feedback to the department on the overall outcomes of the Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.

Return of the dog
If the client no longer wants, or is no longer able, to have an assistance dog, it is to be returned to the DVA contracted supplier.  A supplier may also take back an assistance dog if it believes that the client is no longer able to care for the assistance dog. If there is a problem with the supplied assistance dog, the supplier is expected to replace the dog.

Retiring a dog
When an assistance dog reaches retirement age, a discussion will occur between the client and the supplier about where the dog will be rehomed and if a replacement dog needs to be trained.  If the client does not want to retain the dog, it is the supplier’s responsibility to rehome the dog.

If the client wishes to retain the dog after its working life, it is the client’s responsibility to maintain the dog. DVA is no longer responsible to support the dog’s upkeep.

Supporting documentation

For psychiatric assistance dogs
The suitably qualified health provider is to provide a completed World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0) to the department. This is a 12-question measure to assess level of functioning and should take the prescribing health provider five (5) minutes to complete with the veteran. This assessment is to accompany the D9356 - Request for an Assistance Dog Form.

Note: There are two versions of the WHODAS 2.0; one is 36 items and one is 12 items. DVA only requires the client to complete the 12 item version.

The WHODAS can be completed electronically. A link is included in the application form. If the client is unable complete it electronically, they can complete a manual version and submit it with their application. The manual version can be found here.

For all dogs
Any supporting documentation should be forwarded with the form to RAPGeneralEnquiries [at] dva.gov.au.

Additional information

Ancillary information/ equipment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Public Access Test (PAT)
The PAT is a minimum standard for guide, hearing and assistance dogs to be certified. This confirms that the dog is safe and effective in public places, public passenger vehicles and places of accommodation and is able to be physically controlled by the client, as the primary dog handler.

The annual PAT assessment will be organised and paid for by the dog supplier.

Insurances required by the veteran
Before the dog is placed with the client, it is the client’s responsibility to obtain the following:

  • Pet insurance (includes routine care benefit and dental); and
  • Legal Liability Insurance that will cover the veteran for the actions of the dog - in the home and for any property damage or personal injury caused by the dog to Third Parties.  DVA does not reimburse the client for Legal Liability Insurance.

What DVA will pay for

DVA will pay for:

  • the supply of the assistance dog including the cost of the dog and set-up equipment;
  • all necessary training of the dog and client;
  • any associated travel, freight and accommodation costs during training for the dog and supplier as per DVA’s contractual arrangement;
  • any travel for the client to participate in the training program;
  • Six monthly welfare checks and annual PATs to be completed by the supplier; and
  • Ongoing training of the dog and client as required.

 DVA will reimburse the client, on presentation of paid itemised receipts, up to the quarterly limit of $565.00, as listed in the RAP schedule BH05 – upkeep costs for assistance dogs these may include:

  • Veterinary costs;
  • Annual vaccinations, worming and flea treatments;
  • Dog food;
  • Pet insurance;
  • Reasonable costs of upkeep and maintenance (dog grooming).

Costs exceeding the quarterly limit
Prior approval is required from DVA for costs exceeding the quarterly limit of $565.00.  

In the case of unexpected vet bills or the out of pocket expenses such as the gap between the bill and the amount payable by pet insurance, DVA will reimburse this amount.

Applications for reimbursement
Reimbursement applications should be forwarded to Medtreat [at] dva.gov.au on a MEPI form with copies of the paid itemised accounts or receipts.

Transport costs after the dog has been trained and supplied to client
The Dog Supplier will arrange and pay for the following supplier transport costs:

  • for the annual PAT to be conducted;
  • to enable the six monthly welfare checks; and
  • for ongoing training as required.

DVA will cover the cost of the following transport costs:

  • Client Treatment - If the client is required to travel to access their medical treatment travel, arrangements are to be conducted in accordance with the relevant DVA travel policy. Clients need to advise the travel team at the time of booking that a DVA assistance dog will be accompanying them on this journey. Any additional costs that may be incurred for the travel of the assistance dog will be covered by DVA.
  • Assistance dog treatment - Costs involved in transporting an assistance dog to its appointments, i.e. annual vet check, or for purposes relating to the health and maintenance of the dog.

Airline travel with an assistance Dogs - Airlines require specific registration and requirements to be followed for assistance dogs particularly if they are to travel in the aircraft cabin. This may take some time to organise with the airline so ensure you allow adequate time. It is the responsibility of the client to complete the forms for airline travel and they should liaise with their dog supplier for assistance if required.

Australian Standards and legislative requirements

DVA assistance dog suppliers only engage suitably qualified trainers as defined under the relevant state/territory regulations and legislation.

There is no standard system of accreditation for assistance animals that applies throughout Australia. Some States and Territories have local legislation which provides for the accreditation of an ‘assistance dog’ within their state:

QLD – Queensland Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act (2009).
SA – Dog and Cat Managements Act 1995 (SA) (Dog and Cat Act).
WA – Dogs Act 1976 (WA) (Dogs Act)

In states and territories with no local legislation and the Commonwealth law prevails for example the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) covers issues such as public access rights.