Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs

Policy

The TAC can fund the reasonable cost of a guide dog or an assistance dog for a client as a disability service, where it can be demonstrated that the transport accident has contributed to a significant visual, mobility and/or physical impairment that affects the client's independence. Funding of a guide dog or assistance dog will also be subject to the client being assessed as suitable by Guide Dogs Victoria (or other state/territory equivalent) or Assistance Dogs Australia.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.3 'disability service', s.23 and s.60

Definitions

  • Guide dogs  or seeing eye dogs are specially trained dogs that enable blind or visually impaired people to avoid obstacles/hazards and increase their independence and confidence in mobilising and accessing the community.
  • Assistance dogs  are specially trained dogs that enable people with a disability to perform specific tasks that they would not ordinarily be able to because of their physical impairment.
  • Guide Dogs Australia is the national association encompassing the respective organisations of each state or territory, such as Guide Dogs Victoria.
  • Assistance Dogs Australia is the organisation responsible for placing assistance dogs with a member of the community in any state or territory within Australia.

Guidelines

Who is eligible for the provision of a guide dog or an assistance dog?

Those eligible for a guide dog or assistance dog are clients who:

  • are assessed as eligible for disability services
  • have been recommended for provision of a guide dog or assistance dog by their treating medical practitioner or occupational therapist formally in writing.

Approval for a client to obtain a guide dog or assistance dog will be based on:

  • the client's assessed needs for support
  • a needs analysis with other current assistance services being used by the client
  • the client's ability to physically care for and maintain the guide dog or assistance dog.

What can the TAC fund?

The TAC can fund:

  • the reasonable costs associated with an assessment for suitability for a guide dog or assistance dog
  • the reasonable costs of a guide dog or an assistance dog
  • the reasonable costs associated with training a TAC client to command a guide dog or assistance dog
  • the reasonable ongoing veterinary costs involved in maintaining the health of an active guide dog only, eg. 6-monthly check-up, worming, surgery, dental health products, etc.

It should be noted that veterinary equipment, including worming and dental health products, will only be funded if purchased from a veterinary clinic, ie. not from a supermarket.

Who can provide guide dogs and assistance dogs?

In Victoria, guide dogs will be provided by Guide Dogs Victoria. For clients residing in other states, refer to other associate member bodies of Guide Dogs Australia for more details. Assistance dogs for all clients will be provided through Assistance Dogs Australia.

All dogs provided will have undergone full training by the relevant organisation. The average waiting time for a guide dog is 4 to 6 months but some clients may wait longer to ensure they receive the right dog to address their individual needs.

Are there any specific requirements for maintaining and caring for a guide dog or assistance dog?

Guide Dogs Victoria advises that to ensure the dog maintains its specialist training skills, that it regularly travel to different destinations or regularly complete multiple tasks. As the TAC does not fund ongoing or additional training of guide dogs over and above that provided by the organisation that provided the guide dog throughout its active service life, it is a client's responsibility to ensure this occurs if required. Assistance Dogs Australia can provide ongoing training for the dog as required.

In relation to guide dogs and assistance dogs, what will the TAC not fund?

The TAC will not fund:

  • a guide dog or an assistance dog for a person other than the injured client
  • a guide dog or an assistance dog for a condition that existed before the transport accident or that is not a direct result of the transport accident
  • a guide dog or an assistance dog where there is no objective evidence that this will be a safe and effective alternative
  • a guide dog or an assistance dog where there is no clinical justification for this service
  • costs associated with feeding, grooming and general day to day maintenance of a guide dog or assistance dog, eg. food (including specialty dog food), bathing (including veterinary hydrobathing), combs, leashes, collars (with the exception of flea collars), toys, etc.
  • veterinary costs associated with the care of a guide dog or an assistance dog after the dog retires from active service
  • ongoing or additional training for a guide dog or assistance dog over and above that provided by the organisation or as stipulated in the contract respectively
  • costs associated with insurance for a guide dog or assistance dog
  • the cost of telephone calls and telephone consultations between providers and clients, and between other providers, including hospitals and veterinary clinics
  • fees associated with non-attendance at appointments
  • a guide dog or an assistance dog provided for a client outside the Commonwealth of Australia
  • services relating to and for the provision of a guide dog or an assistance dog provided more than 2 years prior to the request for funding, except where the request for payment is made within 3 years of the transport accident. Refer to the Time Limit to Apply for the Payment of Medical and Like Expenses policy.