Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You can refer to all our frequently asked questions in the section below.
Updated October 2016

+ What is Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK)?

Assistance Dogs UK is a voluntary coalition of accredited assistance dog charities that aims to promote the freedom, independence and rights of people with assistance dogs across the UK.

All ADUK member charities have successfully passed an extensive accreditation process that covers all aspects of their training and administration – ensuring they meet the exacting standards set by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and the International Guide Dogs Federation (IGDF).

As ADUK organisations have been accredited by ADI and IGDF, service users and members of the public can be assured that they meet very high standards in terms of dog and user training and dog welfare.

ADUK is a registered charity.

+ What is a accredited assistance dog?

Accredited assistance dogs are dogs that have been trained by accredited member organisations of Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). Over 7,000 disabled people in the UK rely on an assistance dog to help with practical tasks, in addition to the emotional benefits and greater independence that such dogs bring.

Accredited assistance dogs:

  • have been trained to behave well in public
  • have safe and reliable temperaments
  • are healthy and do not constitute a hygiene risk observed over a considerable period of time
  • are fully toilet-trained
  • are regularly checked by experienced veterinarians
  • are accompanied by a disabled handler who has been trained how to work alongside their assistance dog
  • are recognisable by the harness, organisation specific coat, id tag on their collar or lead slip they wear

+ How do I recognise an ADUK accredited assistance dog ?

Assistance dogs trained by member organisations of ADUK will have formal identification in the form of a white harness, organisation specific branded dog jackets, lead slips or id tags on the dog’s collar.

Most Assistance dog service users who have an assistance dog from an ADUK member organisation will also have a yellow ADUK branded ID book. This ID book has been designed to support accredited assistance dog owners with their access to goods, facilities and services, as defined in the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales, and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 in Northern Ireland.

The ID book contains information about the owner and their dog, details of the training organisation who trained the dog and its owner. It also has information about equality and disability law (specifically the Equality Act 2010, DDA 1995 and the elements which support the rights of assistance dog owners and their dog, especially when accessing goods, facilities and services.

Currently the following organisations are registered full members of ADUK:

ADUK has a logo, making it easy for assistance dog partnerships from accredited organisations to be recognised. ADUK has also produced a window sticker, enabling service providers to show they welcome assistance dogs and understand their obligations to assistance dog owners under the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

+ Why is ADUK accreditation important ?

ADUK is a registered charity and welcomes applications for full membership from other charities that have been accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dogs Federation.

Provisional membership of ADUK is available to charities that are Candidates of ADI or Applicant Organisations within IGDF.

+ Can a commercial dog assistance organisation join ADUK ?

At present, Assistance Dogs International (ADI) do not accredit commercial organisations, and therefore, membership of ADUK is not currently available to such organisations. However, this may change in the future.

+ Is ADUK working with the Government to improve legislation regarding assistance dogs?

ADUK recognises that the current legislation on assistance dogs needs be revised, and is campaigning to improve the law to help disabled people with assistance dogs.
ADUK has met with the Minister of Disabled People to request a change to the Equality Act 2010. ADUK believes that the Equality Act should recognise that high standards of training must be adhered to.

+ How do I know that the person who is accompanied by an assistance dog has a disability ?

If somebody has qualified to be partnered with an assistance dog trained by an ADUK member, they will have had to show clear evidence of their disability by means of medical assessments and reports. Some disabilities, such as deafness, may not be visible.

The Equalities Act 2010 states that it is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person either directly or indirectly. For full information on the law and assistance dogs, please read the Equality and Human Rights Commission, or Equality Commission NI

+ Why should I allow a disabled person to be accompanied by their assistance dog ?

The Equalities Act 2010 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 say that reasonable adjustments must be made in order to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities. These will range from creating an access route for a person with a wheelchair to waiving a “no dog’s policy” in order that a disabled person may be accompanied by their assistance dog.

All assistance dogs trained and placed by ADUK member organisations perform practical assistive tasks for their disabled partners, to avoid them being at a disadvantage and to enable them to be independent, or provide guiding skills in the case of blind or partially sighted people. For this reason it is reasonable to allow assistance dogs to accompany their owners into most situations where pet dogs would not be permitted, or for service providers to make reasonable adjustments in providing safe and secure accommodation for a dog and support for its handler in the dog’s absence, in, for example, a zoo.

A disabled person should not be put at a disadvantage due to their assistance dog. For example, a disabled person should not be asked to sit in a specific area to keep the dog out of the way, or asked to pay an additional fee for cleaning.

+ How do I apply for an assistance dog?

Each ADUK charity has an individual application process. Please visit our member’s page and contact the relevant charity directly.

+ Surely assistance dogs are a health hazard ?

Assistance dogs trained by ADUK member organisations are recognised by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and The Scottish Royal Environmental Health Institute, which states that assistance dogs should be allowed access to restaurants, food retailers and other premises where food is available.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have declared that the very specific training and regular health tests that assistance dogs go through means they are unlikely to be a risk to hygiene in these premises. There is no conflict with food hygiene laws in allowing access for assistance dogs.

+ How can you be sure an assistance dog won't bite anyone ?

All assistance dogs placed by ADUK members are selected by experts in order to ensure their trustworthy temperament. They are continually assessed in a variety of situations over a period of several years before they are considered ready to be qualified. It would not be possible to ensure the temperament of dogs if this long careful assessment process was not undertaken throughout the training of the dog.

+ How can you be sure an assistance dog will not put anyone's safety because of their behaviour ?

All assistance dogs from ADUK members are trained by expert dog-trainers over a period of many months in order to ensure that they are entirely under control at all times and that they won’t constitute any sort of risk or nuisance to anyone. For example, assistance dogs are trained to lie quietly under the table when their partner is eating at a restaurant. Their standards are assessed in a variety of situations over a period of many months before they are considered ready to be qualified as assistance dogs.

All assistance dogs must pass various tests and these include tests relating not only to their standards of obedience, but also proving that the dogs do perform the practical assistive tasks that their partner requires. It would not be possible to ensure the behaviour and training of dogs if this long careful training and assessment process were not undertaken and in a variety of different environments.

How can you be sure an assistance dog will not put anyone’s health at risk because of any canine illnesses or health conditions that might be passed to people?

ADUK acknowledges that in order to prevent any risk to people’s health, all accredited assistance dogs must be regularly vaccinated, wormed and treated with flea control applications, in accordance with the very latest veterinary advice, using the very best products.

All accredited assistance dogs receive regular health assessments by vets. ADUK guarantee that assistance dogs receive this regular healthcare by ensuring that recipients of assistance dogs provide on-going evidence of these healthcare treatments several times a year. Less frequent or less comprehensive checks would not suffice. For example, annual evidence of healthcare would not be sufficient to guarantee freedom from parasites throughout the year.

+ How can you be sure that the disabled partner is able to handle their dog and ensure it's healthcare, in the same way as the dog's expert trainer ?

ADUK requires that people who are partnered with assistance dogs must receive comprehensive training (generally at least 18 days supervised by a professional trainer) in all aspects of dog behaviour, training and welfare in order that they are entirely safe to handle a dog in a variety of situations.

All accredited assistance dogs must pass a Qualification Test during which they are handled entirely by their disabled partner, before qualifying. This test encompasses obedience, both on and off lead, public access behaviour, specific assistive tasks and understanding of dog welfare and health. Additionally, assistance dogs are periodically checked to ensure that the partnership of dog and owner is maintaining the standards under which they qualified with their dog.

+ How can you be sure an accredited assistance dog won't cause a problem to people who are allergic to dogs ?

The Equality Act 2010 and DDA 1995 require that disabled people have the same rights to services such as accommodation, restaurants, pubs and cafes as everyone else. It includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access services. This includes amending a ‘no dogs’ policy to allow guide and assistance dogs in to places normally restricted to exclude pet dogs.

Allergy to dogs is sometimes given as a reason for not admitting assistance dogs. While the prevalence of allergies generally is increasing worldwide, and it is of course not an issue to be taken lightly, the incidence of allergies to dogs may be less than perhaps commonly thought. In the UK approximately 8% adults are sensitive to dog allergens, while it is estimated that up to 4 times as many people are allergic to pollen and house dust mites. Where a clear allergy risk to a specific individual can be objectively identified by an establishment, steps should be taken to reduce this risk, for example by accommodating an assistance dog and handler in a separate part of the room or by getting non dog allergic staff to take over serving duties. But refusal of access for assistance dogs based on the possibility that other people ‘may’ be allergic is unlikely to be classed as a reasonable or proportionate response.

For more information about Allergens and Allergies to Dogs please click on the links below:

FAQ Further information about Dogs and Allergies

Common Allergens and allergic reactions to dogs – detailed report

+ Surely assistance dogs are a health hazard?

Accredited assistance dogs trained by ADUK member organisations are recognised by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and The Scottish Royal Environmental Health Institute, which states that assistance dogs should be allowed access to restaurants, food retailers and other premises where food is available.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have declared that the very specific training and regular health tests that assistance dogs go through means they are unlikely to be a risk to hygiene in these premises. There is no conflict with food hygiene laws in allowing access for assistance dogs.

+ How can you be sure that the disabled partner is able to handle their dog and ensure its healthcare, in the same way as the dog’s expert trainer?

ADUK requires that people who are partnered with accredited assistance dogs must receive comprehensive training (generally at least 18 days supervised by a professional trainer) in all aspects of dog behaviour, training and welfare in order that they are entirely safe to handle a dog in a variety of situations.

All assistance dogs must pass a Qualification Test during which they are handled entirely by their disabled partner, before qualifying. This test encompasses obedience, both on and off lead, public access behaviour, specific assistive tasks and understanding of dog welfare and health. Additionally, assistance dogs are periodically checked to ensure that the partnership of dog and owner is maintaining the standards under which they qualified with their dog.

+ How can you be sure an assistance dog won’t cause a problem to people who are allergic to dogs?

The Equality Act 2010 and DDA 1995 require that disabled people have the same rights to services such as accommodation, restaurants, pubs and cafes as everyone else. It includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access services. This includes amending a ‘no dogs’ policy to allow guide and assistance dogs in to places normally restricted to exclude pet dogs.

Allergy to dogs is sometimes given as a reason for not admitting assistance dogs. While the prevalence of allergies generally is increasing worldwide, and it is of course not an issue to be taken lightly, the incidence of allergies to dogs may be less than perhaps commonly thought. In the UK approximately 8% adults are sensitive to dog allergens, while it is estimated that up to 4 times as many people are allergic to pollen and house dust mites. Where a clear allergy risk to a specific individual can be objectively identified by an establishment, steps should be taken to reduce this risk, for example by accommodating an assistance dog and handler in a separate part of the room or by getting non dog allergic staff to take over serving duties. But refusal of access for assistance dogs based on the possibility that other people ‘may’ be allergic is unlikely to be classed as a reasonable or proportionate response.

For more information about Allergens and Allergies to Dogs please click on the links below:

FAQ Further information about Dogs and Allergies

Common Allergens and allergic reactions to dogs – detailed report

+ Should I apply for a dog from an organisation that has not been accredited and is therefore not a member of ADUK?

If you are considering applying for a dog from an organisation that is not a member organisation of ADUK, and therefore has not been accredited by ADI or the IGDF, you might want to think carefully about whether this is going to give you what you want and need. Equality and Disability law supports the right of a person related to their disability, so if bought to court, it may be incumbent on the dog’s owner to demonstrate how their dog legitimately supports their mobility and or independence. This would apply whether the dog is trained by a member of ADUK or not.

There are many individual assistance dog trainers and non-accredited organisations offering a service, but it is the responsibility of the individual to do their own research into the trainer’s/organisations qualifications, training techniques and understanding of the appropriate disabilities and conditions. Such organisations or individual trainers will not have had to prove to a third party (e.g. ADI or IGDF) that they work to high standards in relation to dog and handler training – a high risk for potential assistance dog owners.

A number of non-accredited assistance dog organisations do state that they work to the standards set by ADI or IGDF. However, they have not been accredited and their work has not been subject to scrutiny by experienced accreditation assessors.

ADUK cannot offer advice on the suitability of other assistance dog trainers or commercial organisations.

+ I can’t find an ADUK organisation that trains assistance dogs for my condition. Can I still apply for an assistance dog?

ADUK charities have limited resources and are funded entirely by public donations. If you don’t currently meet the criteria for an assistance dog from an ADUK organisation, we may be able to help in the future.
ADUK charities are researching new methods to help more disabled people through the provision of an assistance dog. However, new assistance dog programmes take years to research and develop, and require a multitude of expertise and training. Please do revisit the website in the future for new programmes.

+ How does a charity become ADUK accredited?

ADUK is a registered charity and welcomes applications for full membership from other charities that have been accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dogs Federation.

Provisional membership of ADUK is available to charities that are Candidates of ADI or Applicant Organisations within IGDF.

+ I run a small charity that trains assistance dogs. How do I become a member of ADUK?

You can become a member of ADUK once you have become a member of Assistance Dogs International. You can find information on becoming a member of ADI here.

The important aspects of becoming a member of ADI as at Oct 2015 is:

  1. you operate as a not-for-profit
  2. your organisation has a creditable business plan
  3. you have produced a minimum of 7 assistance dog partnerships that have worked successfully for at least 1 year, and references are available
  4. you have a reference from an existing ADI member
  5. you agree to abide by the ethos and regulations of ADI membership, its commitment to the maintainance of high training standards and the re-accreditation process

However, please read the attached links very carefully to ensure you understand the full requirements of ADI membership.

+ How can you guarantee that accredited assistance dogs maintain the same high standards of behaviour for the whole of their working life, regardless of whether their disabled partner’s circumstances change?

ADUK stresses the absolute importance of providing regular aftercare support to all assistance dogs’ partnerships. All partnerships are re-assessed at least once a year as an absolute minimum as part of the ADI and IGDF standards. Without such regular aftercare, no guarantees could be provided regarding the ongoing standards of the partnerships

+ What if a problem suddenly arises with an assistance dog or its partner which means that the standards of the partnership fall?

All members of ADUK agree to control the standards of all their assistance dogs at all times. As soon as any problems arise which results in a drop in standards, whether due to a change of circumstances in either the dog or the human partner, the organisation that trained the partnership would take immediate action to address the situation.

Partnerships only maintain their assistance dog status if the necessary standards are maintained. This gives complete peace of mind to all concerned.

+ Can my pet dog be registered as an assistance dog by ADUK?

ADUK accredited assistance dogs are highly trained and their temperament is tested over a long training period. Some ADUK charities have their own breeding schemes and start training and socialising each dog from a very early age.

Dog A.I.D. support the training of people’s pet dogs which go through a rigorous training programme over many months under the guidance of highly experienced instructors. Medical Detection Dogs occasionally work with pet dogs if they meet certain criteria.

There is no registration scheme at present in the UK for people to register their pet dogs as assistance dogs.

See individual websites for further information.

+ I am a business owner – do I have to allow access to disabled people with assistance dogs? What does the law say?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced a report that informs businesses of their legal obligation to allow access to assistance dogs. The report can be found here.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that assistance dogs:

  • will not wander freely around the premises
  • will sit or lie quietly on the floor next to its owner and are trained to go to the toilet on command and so are unlikely to foul in a public place
  • are instantly recognisable by the harness or identifying dog jacket they wear

Every accredited assistance dog user has an ID book giving information about the assistance dog and training organisation together with other useful information.

+ I am an assistance dog owner and have been refused access to a public place. What should I do?

Being refused access can be a very humiliating and stressful experience. A lot of service providers are simply not aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995, so providing initial information about access rights for assistance dogs is the first step. In many cases, when service providers realise they are at fault they are more than happy to help to resolve the problem.

Accredited assistance dog partnerships can show their ADUK Identification Book to the service provider, or point the service provider to the ADUK website for further information.

However, if they continue to refuse to deal positively with the issue, you should contact your assistance dog organisation and they will support you in any way they can. Where necessary, the organisations that form part of ADUK work together to ensure compliance with the law on access rights.

+ Where can I go to get a psychiatric service dog?

There are no ADUK accredited assistance dog charities at the present time that train dogs for people with mental health issues where this is the only disability.

+ Are emotional support dogs recognised as assistance dogs?

No, emotional support dogs are not required to undergo any specialised training and are not recognised in any region of the world as being assistance dogs. The worldwide body representing assistance dog programmes, ADI, does not classify emotional support dogs as assistance dogs. As a result, the owners of emotional support dogs are not entitled to claim their dogs have public access rights in the UK under the grounds of ‘reasonable adjustments’ that apply to assistance dogs. This includes airline travel.

At times confusion can arise as a result of laws in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not recognise emotional support dogs as assistance dogs, but it does grant them some rights, including the right of disabled owners of emotional support dogs to reside in housing that has a “No Pets” policy. In addition, The US Department of Transport’s Air Carrier Access Act allows those with proof of a disability to be accompanied by an emotional support dog in the cabin of a plane. In the United States, pets can be registered as emotional support dogs if the owner obtains a letter from a licensed mental health professional that prescribes an emotional support dog. This does not apply in the UK.

+ What should I do if I have a dog from Service Dogs Europe?

In the wake of the recent controversy, if you have a dog from Service Dogs Europe that you are unhappy with, or if you have paid money to Service Dogs Europe and are wishing to claim a refund, and you live in the UK, please follow the below advice:

  1. Raise your issue with Service Dogs Europe first.
  2. Contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.
  3. Citizens Advice may refer your complaint to Trading Standards.

In some cases, ADUK charities may be able to offer practical advice to you if you have a dog that has been supplied by Service Dogs Europe. Please contact the ADUK charity who operates a training programme that is relevant to your needs. There are links to each ADUK charity on this website.
However, please bear in mind that many ADUK charities have insufficient funds to meet the current high demand for their services, and are already working at full capacity to help disabled applicants who have applied for an assistance dog some time ago.

+ Are all accredited assistance dogs permitted to travel to the UK free of charge?

When entering the UK, assistance dogs from other nations will need to meet the full membership criteria of ADI or the IGDF to enter free of charge. ADI or IGDF accreditation is a reassurance of high quality standards in all aspects of training. Assistance dogs not recognised by ADI or IGDF may be asked to pay a fee when entering the UK if they travel in the cabin of aircraft, as this is seen as non-compliant (e.g. an illegal landing), by UK Animal Health authorities.

+ Can I register my privately trained assistance dog with ADUK?

There is currently no registration scheme in the UK to register privately trained dogs with ADUK. However, ADUK is campaigning to improve the legislation to help disabled people with assistance dogs, and believes there should be body where people can register privately trained dogs.