26 August 2021
Assistance animals can make a big impact on a person’s life by increasing independence and reducing reliance on paid supports. And they look super cute while doing it! However, the NDIS have a specific definition for assistance animals, which states that the assistance animal should be trained to perform at least three tasks or behaviours that lessen the impact of a person’s disability. This means that an animal that meets public access requirements but doesn’t perform specific tasks, may not fit into the NDIS requirements for an assistance animal.
To qualify, all potential assistance animals are required to pass a Public Access Test and are typically required to be accredited by their training organisation.
In the NDIS Operational Guidelines there is a list of policy requirements that need to be met before the NDIS agree to fund an assistance animal. Possibly part of the reason behind some of the policy requirements listed below (which can vary from reasonable to not so reasonable) is because if the NDIS agree to fund an assistance animal then they pay for the cost of the animal including any training and maintenance costs like food, grooming, medication, and veterinary services.
Alongside ensuring that having a support animal meets the NDIS’ reasonable and necessary requirements, further evidence is needed to show that:
• The handler can care for the animal properly
• A health risk to the participant or anyone living at the property will not be caused by the animal
• An assistance animal accompanying a child to school is approved by the school
The NDIS typically will not fund an assistance animal if there is a risk to the wellbeing of the animal i.e., they will be performing dangerous tasks, the participant has a history of violent or aggressive behaviour, suicide attempts, self-harm behaviours, drug or alcohol abuse in the last 12 months, and any other risks, or if the assistance animal is intended to provide a mechanical restraint and there is no Behaviour Support Plan in place.
It’s important to note that participants will also need to meet the reasonable and necessary requirement of value for money. Assistance animals can be expensive, and with no guarantee that the support will be effective, participants often need to be able to showcase that an assistance animal may lead to a longer-term reduction of support in other parts of their plan.