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'It's about giving people rights': Assistance dogs could become exempt from dog licences

Currently guide dogs are the only type of assistance dog that do not need a licence.

Dogs are used to help people with a variety of conditions, and provide comfort in hospitals.
Dogs are used to help people with a variety of conditions, and provide comfort in hospitals.
Image: DPA/PA Images

SUPPORT DOGS USED for therapy and assistance could become exempt from the dog licencing system under a new bill.

Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD published the Dog Control (Licence Exemption) Amendment Bill today, which would create an exemption for those who own and train dogs that assist people with physical, psychological or developmental conditions.

Support dogs are used to assist people with a variety of conditions, including blindness and autism, and therapy dogs are often used to provide support in schools, hospitals and care homes. Currently, only guide dogs for the blind are exempt from the licence.

People like this need these dogs as a necessity and I think it’s only fair and just. It’s about giving people rights and equality.

Dog owners in Ireland require a dog licence under the Control of Dogs Act 1986. Individuals have to be over 16 years old to get a dog licence, which can be obtained through post offices or local authorities. A lifetime dog licence costs €140.

Dogs whose owners have written confirmation from a qualified professional that the dog is needed would be exempt, as would dogs that are in possession of a service that trains or cares for assistance dogs.

They shouldn’t bear an additional cost when they need these animals to help them with everyday life.
It’s a very minimal cost, but we know a lot of people are on low budgets.

Image uploaded from iOS Pat Buckley spoke today at Leinster House Source: SinéadBaker/TheJournal.ie

Buckley could not state whether the dogs would be exempt from the entire licencing process or just the fee. “We haven’t looked exactly at the ins and outs, the ticking of the boxes. But basically it would work as something similar to what the Irish Guide Dogs association has at the moment.”

Guide dogs for the blind are exempt from the whole dog licencing process, and not just the fine.

The government has not commented much, he said, but he is “very hopeful” that the bill will get support.

It’s about giving people with disabilities rights.

The measure was supported by Cork County Council last year, and Buckley hopes that support will grow. “We’re hoping that that ripple effect will turn into waves.”


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