Assistance Dogs: Issues. Briefing Paper, Number CBP 7668, House of Commons Library


Assistance dogs are dogs that have been trained in order to provide assistance to disabled people or those with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy.

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Discrimination concerns A recent study by the Guide Dogs charity claimed that three out of four guide dog owners had been turned away from a taxi, business, service or public place because they were told that their dog was not welcome. There have been numerous instances of this reported in the media across the UK. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits service providers, including taxis and restaurants, from discriminating against those who need an assistance dog with them. It also requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers. On 25 May 2016, a large number of assistance dog owners lobbied Parliament. They called for stricter penalties for taxi and minicab drivers who refuse to take them and/or their assistance dogs in vehicles, or make additional charges to do so. There have been calls for: • disability equality training for all taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers as a condition of licence; • an increase in the fine level from level 3 (£1,000) to level 4 (£2,500), to bring it into line with taxi touting; • sentencing guidelines for the offence of refusing carriage to an assistance dog; • a new condition of licence for both drivers and operators of taxis and PHV to comply with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010; • more action by local authorities to use their powers to influence the behaviour of taxis and PHV through the licensing system. The Government has noted that those that have been refused a service can take action in the County Court. It recognised that there needed to be greater communication with industry about their responsibilities, and that it would consider how to reduce the number of refusal incidents. Regulatory issues Assistance dogs are regulated under a voluntary scheme. There are concerns that some privately-trained assistance dogs are not meeting acceptable standards, with implications for the safety of the owner. In addition, there is no system in place to accredit privately-trained assistance dogs. There have been calls for a new registration scheme and a new legal definition of assistance dog. It is not clear what Government policy is on this issue. The Government said in June 2016 that it would hold a roundtable discussion with assistance dog organisations to discuss a range of issues.


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Bennett, O., & Desai, P. (2016). Assistance Dogs: Issues. Briefing Paper, Number CBP 7668, House of Commons Library. Retrieved 5th March 2023 from  

Author(s)/Associated People:

Oliver Bennett, Previn Desai

Country of Publication:

United Kingdom



Countries of Subject Matter:

United Kingdom



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