Care dog concerns
A lack of understanding and fears around the legitimacy of assistance dogs is causing heartache for a group of Rockingham friends, who are fed up with being discriminated against because of their canine companions.
Krystal Jose, Lee Ann Hales and Katrina Kettley each rely on their assistance dogs to help keep them safe.
While Ms Hales is 100 per cent reliant on her seeing eye dog, Viva, German shepherd Rex is trained to help Ms Jose deal with her autism and PTSD, and collie-mix-fox-terrier Lacey is trained to respond to Ms Kettley’s seizures.
However, the women said that lack of understanding from the general public and common misconceptions about assistance dogs often led to problems with taxi drivers, restaurants, businesses and airlines refusing to accept their dogs.
They are calling for better education about service dogs and the important role the pooches play in helping their handlers navigate safely and confidently in everyday life.
“There is not enough education out there,” Ms Jose said.
“People don’t understand the different jobs assistance dogs are trained to do ... that they are trained to play different roles.
“Rex is trained to help me with my autism and PTSD, so if I start to panic he will perform distraction techniques and deep tissue pressure by circling around me or jumping on my lap to calm me down. If that happens people just think I have a badly behaved dog, they don’t realise he’s doing what he has been trained to do.”
The women said they each had recently run into trouble with local businesses, who had refused their entry because they “didn’t need the dog”.
“People see guide dogs and they understand a little, but if it’s any other breed of dog they are on to you about it,” Ms Kettley said .
“I once got kicked out (of a shopping complex) because they said ‘she’s not a guide dog’.
“All assistance dogs have licenses. If people ask politely to see the license that’s fine; it’s when they start to carry on that bothers us.”
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails