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PAT (Psychiatric, Assistance & Therapy) Dogs Australia is

a registered Charity and not-for-profit organisation accredited with the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission), and we have DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient) status with the ATO (Australian Taxation Office).

We help people with mental health disabilities and children with autism procure, train and certify a dog to help mitigate the symptoms of their disability, and we also advocate on their behalf if they ever have any public access issues with one of our certified assistance dogs.

PAT Dogs Australia currently provide accredited assistance dogs for persons living with:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder       PTSD Assistance Dogs (Police, Military and Fire Fighters only, at this time)
  • Autism                                            Autism Assistance Dog
  • Mental Illness                                 Psychiatric Assistance Dogs (Anxiety and/or Depression etc.)
  • Educational Support                       Therapy dogs for schools

What programs are NOT provided by PAT dogs Australia at this time?

  • Medical Alert dogs for people living with diabetes or epilepsy
  • Guide/Hearing dogs
  • Physical disability                        Mobility Assistance Dogs
  • Educational Support                   Educational Support Dogs

What is an Assistance Dog?

Assistance Dog is a generic term for a guide, hearing, or service dog specifically trained to perform identifiable physical tasks and behaviours to assist a person with a disability in order to aid in quality of life and/or independence. Assistance dogs are covered under many legislative access laws for public access rights when working with their handler who lives with a disability.

Assistance dogs are not to be confused with a therapy, emotional support or companion dog which are not required to undertake a Public Access Test (PAT)

All dogs can intrinsically provide emotional support to a human being. Assistance dogs are different from emotional support dogs in that they are specifically trained to perform identifiable tasks to increase independence and/or quality of life.

What does an Assistance Dog do?

Assistance Dogs are trained for two years to perform specific tasks to help their handler. For clients with mental illness, dogs can help with the following:


  • Sensory processing
  • Deep pressure therapy
  • Tactile Stimulation
  • Behaviour Interruption
  • Alerting to escalating symptoms
  • Buffering
  • Guiding and Reminding
  • Retrieving and Carrying
  • Sleeping

Apart from the tangible day-to-day tasks, an Assistance Dog can:

  • Assist with the development and improvement of motor skills
  • Provide greater freedom and independence
  • Reduce the need for a carer
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Give love and companionship

PAT Dogs Australia provides Assistance Dogs and their recipients with public access rights in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act and also in line with the rules and regulations of Assistance Dogs International.

Who is eligible to apply for one of your dogs?

Any person who meets the definition of disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the disorder, illness or disease must be a diagnosable condition under the DSM- V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition).

This includes things like Autism, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Social Phobia, Panic disorders, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar, Dysthymia, Substance Use Disorder, eating disorders etc.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) defines disability broadly as:

  • total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour;

and includes a disability that:

  • presently exists; or
  • previously existed but no longer exists; or
  • may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability); or
  • is imputed to a person.

To avoid doubt, a disability that is otherwise covered by this definition includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability.

Can PAT Dogs Australia help train/accredit/register my own dog or puppy?

Yes, We can…..

We are happy for someone who has an existing dog, join our training and certification program, however to eventually be accredited, you must meet our stringent standards and pass the Public Access Test with one of our approved assessors.

  • PAT (Psychiatric, Assistance & Therapy) Dogs Australia do not train/accredit/register dogs or puppies that are not part of our program, however, we are more than happy for you to join.
  • As an accredited organisation PAT Dogs Australia only provide assistance dogs to people who have completed our application process and passed our public access test.
  • We do offer a recognition of prior learning if you come from another program, however we will assess this on an individual basis.


PAT Dogs Australia’s accredited dog and handler teams will have:

– Completed a Public Access Test (PAT) to receive accreditation – this is an annual test.
– A Teal jacket that is clearly marked to include the following:
– Pat Dogs Australia logo
– A handler’s licence, including photo identification

Can PAT dogs Australia accredit/register my dog as an Emotional Support Animal?

PAT Dogs Australia is unable to accredit or register an emotional support dog as it falls outside our scope of services.

What is a Public Access Test?

The Public Access Test (PAT) establishes a minimum standard for an assistance dog’s behaviour in a public area under state and federal law.

An example of a Public Access Test can be found here (Source www.qld.gov.au).

Which states and territories have programs for registration and accreditation of assistance dogs?

There is no national register of Assistance Dogs in Australia at this time, However everyone with an Assistance Animal is cover by the federal, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, as such any Dogs trained under the Federal laws are protected and cover in every state of Australia.

Some states do have their own laws and they are as follows –

QueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth Australia and the ACT have programs for accreditation and registration of Assistance Dogs. Please click on the following links for information.

At this time, New South WalesVictoria, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, do not have a formal system of accreditation or registration offered by local or state government.

For more information on laws and regulations concerning the public access rights of Assistance Dogs, you can check legislation in NSW and Victoria by clicking on the links below.

Please contact your state or territory government if you live in Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory or Northern Territory.

What is the legal understanding of an Assistance Dog in Australia?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) Section 9, sets out the legal definition of an assistance animal as a dog or other animal that is:
(a) Accredited under a State or Territory law to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of disability; or
(b) Accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed in the regulations; or
(c) Trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.
(Source Human Rights Australia)

I have funding through NDIS to buy and train an Assistance Dog. Can you help me choose, train and accredit a dog?

Yes, We can. Please contact us and we will help arrange this for you.

Can I apply for NDIS funding for costs associated with having an Assistance Dog when it is placed with me?

You can apply for NDIS funding for costs associated with owning an Assistance Dog. This is usually included in core funding and used for food, equipment and veterinary care. The average amount for this funding is $2600 per year. Please contact the NDIS for information.

How do I become an Assistance Dog trainer?

After completing a Certificate IV in Animal Behaviour & Training (ABT), and on the job training with an organisation such as ours or one which is accredited by Assistance Dogs International is required to become an Assistance Dog trainer.

Why can’t I pat an Assistance Dog?

Touching is a distraction and can prevent Assistance Dogs from tending to their human partners. Be sensitive to the fact that Assistance Dogs are working and may be in the middle of a command or direction. Please always ask the handler before interacting with an Assistance Dog – whether they are in training or with their recipient. Interaction includes talking to or making sounds at the dog as well as touching it.

What happens when a dog retires from working as an Assistance Dog?

Our dogs work for approximately 8-9 years, retiring around the age of 10. At this time we ensure they find a loving ‘forever home’ which can be with the client or the client’s own family or friends’ network.

What training methods do you use to train your dogs?

Training is fun! Our dogs enjoy group classes and one-on-one training while visiting different community environments. Our trainers and handler teams use a number of different methods to elicit and motivate desired behaviours, however, at PAT Dogs Australia, we promote positive reinforcement training.

What can I do if I see an Assistance Dog being mistreated or behaving in an inappropriate manner?

We can only assist if the dog in question is a PAT Dogs Australia dog. Our dogs wear a Teal service jacket with PAT Dogs Australia logo clearly displayed on the top. If you would like to report an incident involving one of our dogs, please email the following details to [email protected]

• Your name and phone number
• Location of incident
• Breed of the dog (Labrador, Golden Retriever, Labradoodle, other)
• Colour of the dog (yellow, black, chocolate, other)
• Name of the dog or handler (if known)

If it is not a PAT Dogs Australia dog, you will need to contact the organisation responsible for accrediting the dog. If it is a case of mistreatment, please contact the RSPCA (or equivalent) in your State or Territory.