If you offer a service to members of the public whether for payment or not, whether you are a private business or a public service, this information is for you. It explains what your legal duties are to assistance dog owners under the Equality Act 2010 and how you can meet them.

We are providing this guidance to help businesses understand what they can do to comply with their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010.

What the law means

It is against the law for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably because of their disability, or because they have a guide or assistance dog with them.

Making “reasonable adjustments” might mean giving extra help, such as guiding someone to a restaurant table, or making some changes to the way you provide your services to make it easier for people with disabilities to use them. It certainly includes allowing guide dogs and assistance dogs into all public places with their owners.

Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010. The EA provides for disabled people to have the same right to services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else.

Read the Equality Act 2010 in full.

A disability is defined by the Equality Act 2010 as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
It is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person in the following ways:
Direct discrimination – treating a person less favourably than others because they are disabled or perceived to be disabled. For example, refusing to allow entry to disabled customers, whether or not they have assistance dogs..
Indirect discrimination – where a particular policy has a worse impact on disabled people than on people who are not disabled. For example, a ‘no dogs’ policy will have a worse impact on disabled people using assistance dogs and could be indirect discrimination unless the policy can be objectively justified.
Discrimination arising from disability – treating someone unfavourably because of something connected to their disability. For example, refusing the same level of service to a disabled person because they have an assistance dog.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments – where a physical feature, provision or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage the service provider has a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage. For example, it will often be reasonable to disapply a ‘no dogs’ policy for assistance dog owners  and a failure to do so would amount to unlawful discrimination.
Disability harassment – treating someone in a way which makes them feel humiliated, offended or degraded for reasons  related to their disability.
Direct discrimination by association – treating a person who may or may not be disabled less favourably because of their association  with a disabled person.
Victimisation – treating a person who may or may not be disabled badly because they have made a complaint of discrimination or supported someone who has made a complaint.
Discriminatory advertisements – if a service provider advertises that in providing a service they will treat disabled people unfavourably this will amount to  discrimination. For example, stating in a brochure that assistance dogs are not welcome on the premises.
Positive discrimination – the law recognises the particular disadvantages that disabled people face and so treating disabled people more favourably than others is permitted.
It would be unlawful to refuse a service to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances.

What do I need to do as a business owner?

How can I tell it is an assistance dog and not just a pet?
Assistance dogs are highly trained to the owner’s requirements and:
  • ·    will not wander freely around the premises
  • ·    will sit or lie quietly on the floor next to its owner.
If you have a lot of customer-facing staff, consider displaying a small sign or sticker on the door or wall at the entrances showing that assistance dogs are welcome. Make sure all relevant staff are made aware that they must allow access to assistance dogs.
What if the dog fouls on my premises?
Assistance dogs are highly trained and so are very unlikely to foul in a public place.
My business sells food products, am I obliged to allow assistance dogs in?
Assistance dogs are highly trained, have regular veterinary treatments and are tested on a regular basis to make sure they don’t present a health risk. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has determined that they are unlikely to present a risk to hygiene and should be allowed access to restaurants, cafes, hotels, food shops and other food premises.
What if the assistance dog is a danger or nuisance to other customers or staff?
Assistance dogs are highly trained to make sure they are always under control and will not be a nuisance to anyone. For example, they will not jump up and will lie down at their owner’s feet if the owner sits down to eat.
Disabled people who are partnered with assistance dogs may also receive expert training to ensure that they can handle their dogs.
Why should I allow a disabled person to be accompanied by their assistance dog?
Disabled people rely on their assistance dogs to assist them with everyday tasks and would find it hard to manage without them. It would be unlawful to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. For example, in certain hospital wards.
Assistance dogs as well as being trained to carry out tasks can also provide emotional and psychological wellbeing and improve the confidence of disabled people who use them.
Are there cultural or religious reasons to deny service to a person with an assistance dog?
Religious or cultural beliefs have sometimes been cited as a reason for non-admittance of assistance dogs. However, service providers should permit access to assistance dogs and such beliefs are not a defence against non-compliance. However, this is a sensitive aspect of the access issue and tact should be used by all involved.
The Muslim Shariat Council have clarified that Muslims should accept assistance dogs in their businesses.
What if someone is or might be allergic to dogs?
Refusing to allow access to people with assistance dogs because other people ‘might’ be allergic to dogs is likely to be unlawful disability discrimination. This is because the Equality Act 2010 states that service providers must make reasonable adjustments to policies for disabled people. This includes amending ‘no dogs’ and ‘no pets’ policies to allow access for assistance dogs.
If there is an identifiable person with an allergy to dogs then employers and service providers should take reasonable steps to ensure that person has minimal or no contact with dogs; reasonable steps are unlikely to include banning all assistance dogs.

Further information for businesses can be found at the following places:






Read more about Assistance Dog Etiquette HERE


Requested change to the Equality Act 2010

Assistance Dogs UK met with the Minister of Disabled People (now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People) to request a change to the Equality Act 2010. ADUK believes that the Equality Act should recognise that high standards of training must be adhered to. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 have now published a report which is available here.



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