Great, now that I have your attention, let’s get down to the actual point of this article (no – it’s not just to talk about how great dogs are).
Everyone loves a furry companion. You may not know it, but there are a few select circumstances where you can actually bring your dog on campus.
According to the great sources of knowledge at AskUON, you can bring your dog on campus if it is on a lead – it just can’t go inside any buildings or classrooms.
However you can bring them wherever you may wish if they fit one very specific requirement: they are an assistance or support dog. (Note: Assistance animals are unable to be taken into laboratories or hospital settings when a student).
For those of you unfamiliar with assistance dogs, don’t fret, Navigator will inform you on everything you need to know about dogs at UON.
What are assistance dogs?
When you hear the term ‘assistance dog’, the first thing that probably comes to mind are guide dogs. This is true – but assistance dogs also encompass so many other purposes. And support animals aren’t just limited to dogs!
Assistance dogs are used for a variety of situations including supporting a person with a hearing or mobility impairment, as well as PTSD, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
UON’s Senior Manager for Student Support and Equity, Michelle Campbell, says the University of Newcastle is bound by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), which sets out the definitions and circumstances in which dogs are classed as assistance animals.
“An assistance animal is a trained support designed to facilitate the participation of people with disability in accessing various aspects of personal and public life. They are sometimes mistaken as a pet but provide an essential function for some people with disability,” she said.
Guide Dogs will be visible because of their harness and lead where as other types of assistance dogs will always wear a jacket and some form of identification. For all you keen dog spotters, you may have already seen a few living on campus at the student residences.
If you see a support dog on campus working (i.e. wearing it’s harness), despite how tempting it may be, you must refrain from interacting with it. No pats. No treats. Support animals go through significant training, and distracting them could potentially put their owner at risk of harm. So look, but don’t touch.
The benefits and pitfalls of assistance dogs
A student may not have enough independence or confidence to leave the house unaided, but with their assistance dog, attending university is now possible.
According to Michelle, it’s important to remember that the dog is not a pet but “an important adjustment to allow the student to be integrated into the learning environment”.
“Having spoken with students who have assistance animals, one of the things they will often say is that it would be positive for other students to focus on them as a person and not the dog or ‘the person with the dog’.”
Another important thing to realise that there are some students on campus who are fearful of dogs. To ensure all students feel comfortable on campus, assistance dogs should at all times remain controlled by their handler and not interfere with anyone else.
Getting an assistance dog
For those of you who might be eligible to get an assistance dog through the official channel– be warned. It’s a lengthy process. Not only do you have to fill in a detailed form outlining your preferences in a dog and your circumstances, not limited to your personal life, you also have to provide a video snapshotting yourself, whoever may live with you and the home your furry friend is going to be living.
However, if there’s an upside to this process, it’s that your assistance dog is de-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped and provided free for you. That’s right – all of the exponential costs of bringing the bundle of joy home is free.
Animals on campus
Aside from hanging around campus hoping to spot one of your four-legged friends, there are a few guaranteed ones you can get up close and cuddly with them on campus. There are regular events on campus hosted by NUSA and Student Central which feature rescue animals so make sure to keep an eye out for them!
If you do see an unaccompanied dog on campus, make sure to contact Security Services Emergency number for assistance. Similarly, you can contact WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services Inc.) on 1300 094 737 if would like to report any orphaned or injured wildlife.
For more information on assistance dogs, visit https://www.assistancedogs.org.au/.