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  • Accessibility Services

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    Icon woman with assistance dog
    © ZAB - Bielefeld University

Assistance Dogs

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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 - 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.

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.

Necessary care walks (walking the dog) during working hours are considered business trips. Employees in technology and administration do not have to clock out for this purpose.

Assistance dog training

Icon woman with assistance dog
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

Assistance dogs undergo approximately two years of training, during which they not only learn how to perform individual assistance tasks, but also receive comprehensive training in their social and environmental behaviour and obedience. The owners are also trained, e.g. on how to keep their dog in a species-appropriate manner and 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 is the dog considered a certified assistance dog and may be labelled and carried as such.

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

The current training standards for assistance dogs are published in the Assistance Dog Ordinance (Assistenzhundeverordnung - AHundV).

Anyone who wants to train an assistance dog should inform themselves thoroughly about the training options. Various foundations and associations are available as contacts and some 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 for the blind, 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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