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  • Accessibility Services

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    Icon woman with assistance dog
    © ZAB - Bielefeld University

Assistance Dogs

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Icon woman with assistance dog - sticker with instruction text
© ZAB -University of Bielefeld University

The best known is certainly the guide dog for the blind, which replaces the vision of its owner to a certain extent. However, there are many other specially trained assistance dogs, including:

Life skills assistance dogs (LpF) perform activities for mobility-impaired people, such as picking up objects from the floor, pressing buttons or light switches, opening and closing doors, or helping with dressing and undressing.

PTSD assistance dogs can be used in cases of complex post-traumatic stress disorder and help the sufferer defuse trigger situations, for example, by interrupting flashbacks or dissociations, guiding their owner out of the trigger situation to a quiet place, or carrying emergency medication.

Epilepsy alert dogs warn a few minutes before a focal seizure occurs so that the owner can sit down in time to avoid falls. Stroke alert dogs act in a similar way by displaying a coming stroke in time to get support.

Autism dogs support people from the autism spectrum, for example, in social participation, e.g., they calm down in case of stimulus overload, interrupt stereotypical behaviors or alleviate stress in social situations.

Good to know:

Assistance dogs must follow special rules and meet health requirements. For example, they are not allowed to sniff or make contact with other people or dogs and must stay by their owner's side at all times.

When you meet a human-assistance dog community, you should not approach or stare at the dog, touch it without being asked, or block its path.

Icon woman with assistance dog
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

Assistance dogs accompany people with various disabilities or illnesses permanently in everyday life and at work or in training. They support their owners in their self-determined and independent participation in social life by compensating for handicap-related disadvantages and removing barriers in the environment. Together, human and assistance dog form a team, the so-called human-assistance dog community.

Assistance dogs at work

Certified assistance dogs may generally be carried wherever people in street clothes are present or which are open to general public and user traffic, provided this does not represent a disproportionate or unreasonable burden for the owner or the assistance dog is obviously unkempt or unhealthy. As a rule, assistance dogs do not pose any medical or hygienic risk.

Employees may therefore have assistance dogs on most of the campus, e.g. in offices, Lecture Halls and seminar rooms, the Sports Centre and the Mensa. The assistance dog must always wear a special badge that identifies it as an assistance dog, such as a specific vest. The university is subject to the so-called toleration obligation and may not then blanketly deny access to people accompanied by assistance dogs.

Areas that have special hygienic requirements, such as intensive care or isolation wards in teaching hospitals, are excluded from the general duty to tolerate.

Employees who wish to bring an assistance dog into sensitive working areas, such as laboratories, should contact SBC in advance.

Assistance dogs may be housed in the workplace during working hours. Necessary care walks (walking the dog) are considered official walks. Employees in technology and administration do not have to clock out for this purpose.

Assistance dogs are not (yet) such a common sight in everyday life, so not all people are familiar with the regulations on assistance dogs. Sometimes ignorance can lead to ambiguity for individual employees, e.g. regarding the access of assistance dogs in buildings. Upon request, the SBC will be happy to provide assistance dog owners with a certificate confirming that the assistance dog is allowed to enter the building.
In addition, it can be helpful for colleagues or visitors if owners indicate the presence of the dog at their place of work in advance. This applies in particular to offices with a high volume of public traffic, but is not mandatory.

Assistance dog training

Icon woman with assistance dog
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

Assistance dogs undergo an approx. two-year training in which they not only learn how to perform individual assistance tasks, but also receive extensive training in their social and environmental behavior and obedience. The pupils' owners also receive training, e.g. on how to keep their dog in a manner appropriate to the species and on how to work together in everyday life. The training is completed with a state examination. Not only the dog is tested, but also the functioning of the human-assistance dog community. Only after successfully passing the test, the dog is considered a certified assistance dog and may be marked and carried as such.

Family dogs that provide the same assistance services but have not passed a test are not legally considered assistance dogs!

There are still no generally binding standards for the training of assistance dogs and for the accreditation of training centers. These will only be published with the future Assistance Dog Regulation (AHundV). Everyone who wants to train an assistance dog should inform themselves thoroughly about the training possibilities. Various foundations and associations are available as contacts and sometimes also provide trainers.

Financing of an assistance dog

The costs for the training of an assistance dog should not be underestimated. Depending on the training, costs of between €10,000 and €30,000 can be incurred by the future owner. Until now, the statutory health insurance companies can cover the costs for guide dogs, provided that such an assistance dog is medically necessary. Accordingly, the guide dog is considered an aid. Other assistance dogs have not yet been included in the health insurance funds' catalog of aids.

The training costs for all other assistance dogs must be borne privately or (partially) financed by donations or foundations. In individual cases, the Federal Employment Agency of Germany or other service providers may also be considered as cost bearers within the framework of integration assistance. Those affected should always obtain comprehensive information and advice. This does not mean that health insurance companies will refuse to cover the costs of another assistance dog across the board. The individual case is decisive, as well as a possibly long breath of the applicant.

According to the municipal dog tax statutes (PDF), assistance dogs can be exempted from dog tax upon application. In Bielefeld, only assistance dogs that are used exclusively for the support or protection of blind, deaf or otherwise helpless people can be kept tax-free. These include, in particular, severely disabled people with the marks B, BL, aG, H or GL. A tax exemption can only be granted for one dog at a time. This dog must be at least 12 months old at the start date of the tax exemption.

Liability insurance must be completed for each assistance dog.

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