Spotlight on Assistance Dogs—Legislation, Welfare and Research
Companion Animal Behaviour Group, Division of Animal Welfare, VPHI, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare Research Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln LN6 7TS, UK
Laboratory of Applied Ethology, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padua, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
Anthrozoology Research Group, Department of Psychology and Counselling, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC 3552, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 May 2018
Revised: 22 July 2018
Accepted: 25 July 2018
Published: 26 July 2018
Assistance dogs support humans with a variety of disabilities. Although guide dogs in particular have a long tradition in Western cultures, the legal situation around assistance dogs has been insufficiently developed in many countries so far—a situation that potentially negatively affects both animal and owner. There is also an insufficient amount of research examining assistance dogs in other areas. Studies investigating assistance dogs’ welfare status, cognitive and behavioural capacities, selection criteria for the best fitting individuals, effective training and management practices, and genetic issues, are so far mainly lacking. This review takes a comprehensive approach—it initially outlines important aspects of the current legal situation for assistance dogs in the European Union and Australia, and then it summarizes research findings focusing on dogs’ welfare, cognition, behaviour, health and training. For each of these areas, the need for future development is highlighted and potential ideas for future directions are discussed.