What is Sarah’s situation?

Sarah is 28 years old and has lived with quadriplegia for the past 5 years. Sarah has some function in her arms but limited function in her hands and problems with fatigue. She uses a power wheelchair for all mobility and needs help with many personal and domestic tasks at home. Currently she takes taxis when she needs to get out in the community but would like to be able to get around more independently.

Sarah lives with her boyfriend, and a housemate. Sarah works 8 hours per week and has a goal in her plan to be able to work more. She would also like to use public transport to get to and from work on her own. Her boyfriend and housemate work full time so Sarah is often in the house alone for long periods. She has support workers come into her home daily to help with meal preparation, household tasks and to make sure she’s safe.

Sarah wants an assistance animal because she wants to reduce her use of support workers.

Sarah has been working with her occupational therapist for 5 years. She has achieved some independence goals while working with them. She has started employment, but she can only work two days a week. She is hoping an assistance animal will be able to do some of her household tasks. This will mean she’ll have more energy and can increase her hours at work and will be able to catch public transport independently.

What information and evidence do we need to make our decision?

The type of information and evidence we look at to make our decision includes:

  • information we already know about Sarah
  • evidence of Sarah’s disability and how it impacts her daily life
  • new information we’re given
  • assessments and reports
  • the assistance animal assessment template (DOCX 65KB) that has been filled out by Sarah’s occupational therapist, and assistance animal provider.

What information and evidence did we get?

The information and evidence we got tells us:

  • Sarah has a goal in her plan to be able to work more, and use public transport to get to and from work on her own
  • how often Sarah leaves the house, and can attend work, with and without any supports
  • the other supports Sarah tried, to help her meet her goals and support needs
  • that Sarah has been doing occupational therapy for 5 years
  • the occupational therapy has helped Sarah to get employment two days a week, but she hasn’t been able to increase this
  • Sarah has been learning with her occupational therapist how to manage her energy, so she doesn’t get too tired and has been using the methods recommended
  • Sarah has trialled assistive technology
  • Sarah used to have a pet at home that gave her emotional support
  • what tasks the assistance animal will do, such as fetching items for her, carrying things for her, helping her to make space on public transport for her wheelchair
  • Sarah trialled a fully trained and qualified assistance animal, a dog, for 4 weeks
  • during the trial Sarah was able to catch a train when going out in the community on her own. The dog stood between her and other people while she was on the train, so she wasn’t crowded or bumped
  • by having the dog at work with her Sarah could get it to fetch items in her workspace
  • the trial showed that Sarah will be able to increase employment to 3 days a week with an assistance animal
  • Sarah currently has 4 hours of support worker help on weekdays to help her prepare meals at home, to do household tasks and to make sure she’s safe. Her occupational therapist expects this to reduce to 1.5 hours on weekdays to help her with meals only
  • Sarah will be able to do most things on her own with an assistance animal, and can use friends and family for other times
  • Sarah showed that she took good care of her previous pet
  • the assistance animal provider has assessed Sarah’s home environment to be suitable for the assistance animal.

What decision did we make and why?

Based on Sarah’s situation we decided to fund an assistance animal as it met all of the criteria. Our reasons are explained below:

  • The dog was seen as effective and beneficial for Sarah. It was also seen as a disability related support. The information shows that the dog is a fully trained and qualified assistance animal. The animal did 3 tasks that helped to reduce the effects of Sarah’s disability and had benefits that were more than a pet could give.
  • Evidence from the trial Sarah did showed the assistance animal was effective and beneficial for her. It helped her to manage travel on public transport, at work and in the community. The animal also reduced Sarah’s dependence on support workers. 
  • The assistance animal was value for money when thinking about the benefits achieved and comparing the cost of other supports. This is because the assistance animal would likely reduce Sarah’s need for other supports in the long-term. The evidence showed that having an assistance animal meant she wouldn’t need a support worker for 2.5 hours per day for help in the home and she was able to increase her work hours from 1 to 3 days.
This page current as of
13 December 2021
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