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.