Assistance Animals Need Better Protection
University of Queensland (UQ) research has revealed the need for better protection for assistance animals and more support for their owners.
PhD candidate Amanda Salmon from the School of Psychology found that while there were laws protecting disabled people, the same level of support was unavailable for their assistance animals. Therefore, many people faced the difficult decision of giving up their assistance animals due to financial hardship or restrictions on pets in rental housing or aged care, causing distress for both the owner and the animal.
“The study calls for more to be done to ensure people have the means to provide basic care for their animals and to remove the red tape around housing and aged care applications to allow them to stay together.”
An Animal Welfare League Australia report found that only 18% of the 2,933 aged care facilities reviewed considered allowing residents to keep an animal. The UQ research showed that when no suitable friend or family member could adopt the animal, it was returned to the providing organization or surrendered to a shelter in the case of self-trained assistance animals.
Assistance animals have been shown to improve the quality of life for people with physical, sensory, cognitive, and emotional needs. Professor Nancy Pachana, Director of UQ’s Healthy Ageing Initiative, stressed the importance of giving assistance animals every opportunity to remain with their owners, especially those who are older. She noted that these animals provide companionship, reduce social isolation, and have mental and physical health benefits.
The research highlights the need for greater recognition of the value of assistance animals in assisted housing situations aimed at older people. The study calls for more to be done to ensure people have the means to provide basic care for their animals and to remove the red tape around housing and aged care applications to allow them to stay together.