Rights of assistance dogs and their owners

The information on these webpages has been provided by Guide Dogs UK.

Guide dogs are working animals, not pets, and their owners rely on them for both independence and mobility. Guide dogs have up to two years of intensive training and receive further training throughout their working lives. In addition, guide dog owners are given training on how to maintain the extremely high standards of grooming which the dogs require and the dogs are checked regularly by vets.

In practical terms, guide dogs do not disrupt the everyday operation of businesses or premises. They are trained to sit at their owner’s feet at all times, not to bother other people and not to climb on furniture.

What does the law say?

Assistance dog owners have the right to access businesses and services without discrimination, according to the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland.

How to recognise an assistance dog

Most guide or seeing eye dogs wear a guiding harness with a handle held by the owner, with other types of assistance dogs wearing coloured jackets; for example, those used by the Assistance Dogs UK member organisations described below:

  • hearing dogs for deaf people wear burgundy jackets
  • dog AID (Assistance in Disability) dogs and medical detection dogs wear red jackets
  • canine partners (for people with physical disabilities) wear purple jackets
  • dogs for good (for people with physical disabilities or children with autism) wear green jackets
  • support dogs (for physically disabled adults, seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy, and autism assistance dogs for children with autism) wear blue jackets