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Assistance Dog Law (NI)

Assistance dogs are dogs that have been trained to work in partnership with disabled people to assist them in accessing services and to help them to improve their mobility, independence and quality of life. Assistance dogs support people with a wide range of disabilities; including visual impairments, deafness, physical disabilities and hidden disabilities.


Assistance dogs are highly trained working dogs: they are not pets! Assistance dogs can be recognised by the harnesses and coloured jackets that they wear.

Disabled people who use assistance dogs quite often experience discrimination in doing everyday things which others take for granted. This is because shops, restaurants and other businesses sometimes object to assistance dogs being brought onto their premises.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 says that anyone who provides goods, facilities or services to the public cannot, without a lawful justification, treat a disabled person less favourably than a comparable non-disabled person by refusing to provide the service for a reason relating to the disabled person’s disability. Nor can service providers, without a lawful justification, use a person’s disability as a reason to provide them with a lower standard of service than is offered to other people or a service on worse terms. Doing any of these things could result in an act of unlawful disability discrimination.

Source: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Hygiene and Health & Safety

It is entirely understandable that some businesses have a general policy of not allowing pets onto their premises for health and safety reasons. However, even where hygiene is particularly important (in food shops and restaurants, for example) it should be possible to make exceptions for assistance dogs, despite concerns over health and safety. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health recommends that assistance dogs are exempt from ‘no dogs’ policies

Assistance Dogs in Taxis

Sections 37 and 37A of the DDA make it a criminal offence for taxi operators to refuse to accept a booking from, and for taxi drivers to refuse to carry, a disabled person on the grounds that he/she wishes to be accompanied by an assistance dog. It is also a criminal offence for the driver, or for the operator, to charge extra for carrying an assistance dog in a taxi. This rule applies to all taxi drivers, except for those who have been exempted on medical grounds by the Department of Environment. Drivers who are exempt must publicly display in their taxis the notice of exemption that has been issued to them by the Department.

Source: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Equality House

7-9 Shaftesbury Square



Telephone: 028 90 500 600

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