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Animals 2018, 8(8), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8080129

Spotlight on Assistance Dogs—Legislation, Welfare and Research

1
Companion Animal Behaviour Group, Division of Animal Welfare, VPHI, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
2
Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare Research Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln LN6 7TS, UK
3
Laboratory of Applied Ethology, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padua, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
4
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
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
Full-Text   |   PDF [268 KB, uploaded 26 July 2018]

Simple Summary

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.

Abstract

Assistance dogs are a very diverse group of working dogs that are trained to assist humans with different types of disabilities in their daily lives. Despite these dogs’ value for humankind, research on their welfare status, cognitive and behavioural capacities, selection criteria for the best fitting individuals, effective training and management practices, and genetic issues are so far lacking. This review highlights the need to address these topics and to promote progress in legal issues around assistance dogs. The topic of assistance dogs is approached comprehensively by outlining the current status of knowledge in three different dimensions: (1) the legal dimension, outlining important legal issues in the EU and Australia; (2) the welfare dimension; and (3) the dimension of research, covering assistance dog selection and training. For each of these three dimensions, we discuss potential approaches that can be implemented in the future in order to support assistance dog working performance, to protect the dogs’ welfare, and to improve our knowledge about them. Additionally, there remain many legal issues, such as the presence of assistance dogs in public areas, the resolution of which would benefit both the assistance dog and the owner with disability. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; assistance dog; guide dog; legislation; welfare; behaviour; cognition; training; genetics; selection dog; assistance dog; guide dog; legislation; welfare; behaviour; cognition; training; genetics; selection
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Bremhorst, A.; Mongillo, P.; Howell, T.; Marinelli, L. Spotlight on Assistance Dogs—Legislation, Welfare and Research. Animals 2018, 8, 129.

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