The rules surrounding which public spaces and buildings assistance animals are allowed access to has once again been brought into question after a Victorian man lost his discrimination case to bring two dogs into the County Court last week.
According to a news.com.au report, Michael Phillips had accused a protective services officer of unlawful discrimination after he refused to allow him to enter the court with his two German Shepherds, Rishi and Goethe, in March last year.
‘Mental illness blindness’
Phillips had accused protective officer Lee Andrews of being “mental illness blind” when he stopped him from entering the court complex with the two animals.
“I have been unfairly discriminated against as Lee Andrews refused to allow entry for my assistance animals,” Phillips claimed.
Andrews said he did not allow the animals into the court complex unmuzzled because they posed a risk to the public.
In fact, Phillips was in court that day to appeal a conviction after Rishi attacked someone, causing them serious injury.
Unable to prove the dogs were assistance animals
In the end, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal dismissed the discrimination application, ruling that Phillips was unable to prove the dogs were assistance animals.
“Mr Phillips said he trained them to assist him ‘using my teaching training and dog psychology to condition them to behave in all social circumstances’. He did not provide any further details as to what that training involved,” VCAT Vice President Ted Woodward said.
Mr Woodward said he was satisfied Andrews had been fulfilling his responsibilities to maintain security and order in the courts.
Guide dog discrimination common
A recent survey by Guide Dogs Victoria of more than 100 vision impaired people found that unlawful discrimination was common, with one in two handlers across the country reporting that they had experienced being turned away from public buildings or services.
The worst offenders – restaurants, cafes, shopping centres and movie theatres, along with taxis and ride share services like Uber.
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Social justice advocate Miles Heffernan from Harassment Claims said assistance animals are allowed access to public spaces and services under the Domestic Animals Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.
“It is unlawful to refuse access to a guide dog and their handler in public places including shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels, motels, hospitals, medical practices and dental surgeries,” he said.
In a bid to help educate the public, Guide Dogs Victoria is working on a new education campaign to help the community better understand the rights of assistance animals and their handlers.
If you have experienced any form of discrimination, including discrimination based on an impairment or disability, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help and advice, please contact our specialist team at Harassment Claims today on
1300 359 514
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