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Assistance animals on campus

There are many situations where animals provide assistance to people living with a disability. Our students on campus have a wide variety of study needs and some include assistance animals. This means that assistance animals  may be on campus and in our building where other animals are normally not allowed.

If you happen to come into contact with assistance animals, there are some general rules of etiquette you should follow. They are listed below for the guidance of our on-campus students.

If you wish to bring an assistance animal with you to one of our campuses, please make an appointment with Student Support Services on student.access@smtafe.wa.edu.au to register and complete the relevant Assistance Animal documentation.

Dos and Don’ts for behaviour around an Assistance Animal 

DO speak to the owner/handler rather than the animal.

The Assistance Animal and its handler are a team. If you want to talk to them, always speak to the person first rather than automatically approaching the Assistance Animal. Remember, the Assistance Animal is working, and its handler’s life could depend on it staying focused on its job.

DON’T touch the animal without asking permission first.

Touching or petting a working, Assistance Animal is a distraction and may prevent it from tending to its handler partner. The Assistance Animal may be in the process of completing a command or direction given by its handler, and you don't want to interfere.

DO keep your own animal a distance away from a working animal.

If you happen to have your animal with you when you encounter an Assistance Animal team, don't allow your animal to approach them without first talking with the handler to see if it's permissible.

DON’T offer food to an Assistance Animal.

Food and treats are a potential distraction and can jeopardise the working Assistance Animal team. Many Assistance Animals are fed a specific diet and often on a specific schedule.

DON’T assume a napping Assistance Animal is off duty. 

All animals nap, including Assistance Animals. When its handler is sitting or standing for some length of time, it's perfectly natural and appropriate for an Assistance Animal to catch a few winks. It's still technically at work, however, so all dos and don'ts remain in effect.

DO inform the handler if an Assistance Animal approaches you. 

If an Assistance Animal approaches you, sniffs or nudges you, etc., politely let the handler know. Resist the urge to respond to the Assistance Animal — the handler will correct the animal.

DON’T assume Assistance Animals never get to ‘just be animals’.

Assistance Animals typically get plenty of rest and relaxation and playtime. When they're home and out of their "work clothes," they're free to behave like any other animal. Since the jobs these wonderful animals do are often challenging and stressful, their handlers recognise they need plenty of downtime and exercise.

Examples of Poor Etiquette 

  • Talking, whistling, cooing or barking at the Assistance Animal
  • Petting or asking to pet
  • Praising the pet when it completes its task
  • Tapping your leg or clapping your hands
  • Allowing your children to approach
  • Speaking to the handler such as:
    • “What is wrong with you?”
    • “What a good animal you have!”
    • “What happened?”
    • “What is its name?”
    • “I know you’re’ not supposed to pet, but I just can’t’ resist!”
  • Asking for a demonstration

More information

For more information visit the Healthy Pets Assistance Animals article or the International Association of Canine Professionals Service Dog Etiquette article; or download our Fact Sheet below.

Page last updated October 15, 2019