Some companion animals are trained to provide assistance to people with a disability to help alleviate the effect of that disability.These assistance animals are not pets. They provide an important service that helps people to more fully participate in personal and public life activities with more confidence and independence. This website provides information on laws for assistance animals under the Companion Animals Act 1998 in NSW only. Other Government agencies can provide you with advice about how assistance animals are treated under other NSW laws.
What is an assistance animal?
An assistance animal in NSW is a dog or other animal that is either:
- accredited under a law of a State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of that disability; OR
- accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the Commonwealth; OR
- trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of that disability, and, to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.
This is based on how assistance animals are defined in Commonwealth law (Disability Discrimination Act 1992). Currently neither the Commonwealth nor NSW laws provide for the accreditation of assistance animals. A working dog cannot also be an assistance animal.
What is a disability?
Disability covers a wide range of physical and psychological conditions and includes:
- total or partial loss of the bodily or mental functions;
- total or partial loss of a part of the body;
- the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness;
- the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness;
- the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body;
- a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently; OR
- a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour.
What does the owner of an assistance animal need to do?
Like all other companion animals, assistance animals need to be micro-chipped and registered in NSW. However, no fee is charged for registering an assistance animal.
Registration lasts for the life of each animal. If you change address or your animal goes missing or dies, please notify your local council.
It is also strongly recommended that assistance animals are vaccinated and de‑sexed. Do not train a restricted or dangerous dog as an assistance animal.
How do I register my assistance animal?
Once the animal has been microchipped by a vet or authorised identifier, the owner should contact their local council to apply for a no fee registration.
What proof is required?
Councils are entitled to request reasonable proof that your animal is a genuine assistance animal. This means proof:
- that you have a disability;
- that your animal has been trained to alleviate the effect of the disability; and
- that your animal is trained to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.
Importantly, a person with a disability has the right to train their own assistance animal so long as he or she can provide proof that that training means the animal meets the definition of an assistance animal (see What is an assistance animal?).
Refer to the Exercise of Functions Guidelines, or contact your local council for advice about what kinds of proof are acceptable.
Registration as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 does not necessarily provide proof the animal is an assistance animal for the purposes of entering a public place or public transport.
Entering public places
In general, animals are prohibited from entering certain public places – see further information in the Prohibited areas page. However, a person with a disability is entitled to be accompanied by an assistance animal in public places and on public transport while he or she is genuinely using the animal for assistance. Entry cannot be refused without reasonable cause.
An animal does not need to be registered as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 to be permitted access to a public place or public transport. Staff in charge of access to public places and transport are entitled to request reasonable proof that your animal is a genuine assistance animal. They may be guided by their organisation’s own policy to help them to determine this. Their policies may be publicly available.
It is unlawful to impose a charge on a person to enter a place open to, or used by the public, only because the person is accompanied by an assistance animal unless:
- it is reasonably necessary to supply additional accommodation for the animal and a reasonable charge is applied for that accommodation; OR
- the owner, or person in charge, of the place reasonably incurs additional expense because the animal is present, the charge is reasonable in the circumstances and is charged to compensate for the expense.
Using public transport
Dogs are prohibited from entering certain public places, however, a person with a disability is entitled to be accompanied by an assistance animal. A person who is accompanied by an assistance animal must not, without reasonable cause, be denied access to a public building or place, or any public transport, if the person has a disability and is using the animal to assist them.
It is a matter for the person in charge or control of the building, place or public transport to determine, in their discretion, whether the person’s disability and use of an assistance animal meets the provisions of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Documentation may be required to verify that the animal has been appropriately trained and is being used to assist or alleviate a disability.
An animal does not necessarily need to be registered as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 to be permitted access to a public place or public transport. Similarly, registration as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 does not necessarily provide proof of training or verify use of the animal to allow entry to a public place or public transport.
For further information contact a representative for Transport for NSW on 131 500 who will be able to assist with queries on rail and bus travel for all types of animals.