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We need to make sure that an assistance animal will be effective and beneficial for you, taking into account current good practice. Effective and beneficial means it will help you and be suitable for your disability support needs.
We need to check if the animal meets the definition of an assistance animal and if it is, or will be, fully trained and qualified.
We also need to think about good practice. This means we look at how effective the assistance animal has been for other people with similar support needs and in situations like yours. If you’ve had an assistance animal before, we’ll look at how the animal has helped you in the past.
To decide if this support will be effective and beneficial for you, we think about:
- how the assistance animal will actively help you do at least 3 tasks that you can’t do because of your disability
- the results and outcomes of having an assistance animal compared to not having one
- whether you have any experience using an assistance animal, such as a trial of using it as a support. A trial is generally done after you’ve tried other best practice supports
- whether you’ve tried best-practice supports and how they worked for you. These are supports that have been helpful for others in similar situations. For example, things like other types of assistive technology or capacity building supports. They’re generally seen by medical and allied health professionals as the best way to support people with similar disabilities.
- whether the assistance animal has done, or will do, all the relevant training, which includes being qualified as an assistance animal and passing the public access test.
We also use evidence from research to help us work out if assistance animals are effective and beneficial. There is currently limited evidence available about the benefits of assistance animals for people with some types of disability. The La Trobe University report – Reviewing Assistance Animal Effectiveness (PDF 1.1MB) provides more information about the effectiveness of assistance animals for different types of disability.
We’ll look at things like:
- published and refereed academic research
- any agreement of expert opinion
- your lived experience or the experience of your carers
- anything we have learned from our experience.
We must also take expert opinion into account. Expert opinion might be relevant as to whether an assistance animal will be effective and beneficial. We’ll also consider your individual situation. For example, if the animal is for a young child, or if you have any behaviours of concern. The La Trobe University report – Reviewing Assistance Animal Effectiveness (PDF 1.1MB) provides more detail about the effectiveness of assistance animals.
When we think about whether you need an assistance animal to manage the functional impact of a psychosocial disability because of PTSD, we need to know that:
- a psychiatrist has diagnosed the PTSD and it’s likely to be permanent
- you’re receiving support from a psychologist or psychiatrist
- your PTSD is your only diagnosis with no additional psychiatric diagnoses
- your psychologist or psychiatrist agrees your PTSD is stable enough for you to properly care for an assistance animal
- you have enough emotional resilience to be involved in the training and care of an assistance animal.
If you have PTSD there is evidence that in some cases an assistance animal can be effective and beneficial to help you actively take part in your community. But we need to know from your treating health professional that you’ve recovered enough and are ready to have an assistance animal. This means you’ve completed your other treatments and have recovered to a point where you’re ready to take those next steps into the community.
Sometimes a companion animal that passes the Public Access Test, but is not necessarily specially trained, will be able to provide you with the confidence to get into the community.
Remember, not everyone with PTSD will be eligible for the NDIS. And an assistance animal may not meet the NDIS funding criteria for everyone with PTSD. There may be other supports that are better value for money and more effective and beneficial.
There isn’t currently a lot of research or evidence to show that assistance animals, other than dog guides are effective compared to other supports. Before we decide to fund an assistance animal, we have a responsibility under the NDIS Act to make sure other support options have been properly considered. Such as supports that have been effective for others with similar needs and may be less costly.
For example, for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there’s very little research or evidence an assistance animal is more effective than other supports. A companion animal or other supports that people with similar needs use, are shown to be just as effective.
What about the welfare of the assistance animal?
We will not fund an assistance animal if there’s a risk to its wellbeing and safety. We need to be sure the animal will:
- be properly cared for
- be treated well
- get enough rest and play time
This is so it can do its tasks and be an effective and beneficial support.
We need to make sure:
- you can provide the right diet for the animal and you can feed it regularly
- you can provide a safe, caring home
- the animal will get enough exercise
- if there are there other pets in the home they won’t stop the assistance animal from working effectively
- your home environment won’t disrupt or stress the animal. For example, if there are young or noisy children who might stress the animal
- the animal will be safe if you or anyone else in your home has behaviours of concern that might pose a risk to the animal.
The assistance animal shouldn’t be at risk of neglect or harm because of where it lives or works, or if you have behaviours of concern. The health care professional who prescribes you an assistance animal is responsible for making sure you can properly care for your animal. This isn’t our responsibility.
Your health care professional will do an assessment . This will work out if there are any risks to the assistance animal and whether you can take care of it.
We need to know you’re in a stable situation and can care for the animal. So, we won’t fund any assistance animal if:
- you have behaviours of concern including aggressive or violent behaviour
- you’ve been admitted to hospital for suicide attempts or self-harm in the past 12 months
- you’ve misused drug or alcohol in the past 12 months and are not stable
- the home where the assistance animal will live is unsuitable.
We’ll also look at your suitability assessment done by your provider, and will not fund an assistance animal if:
- there is risk to it when doing its tasks, for example, lifting or pulling heavy items or leading an electric wheelchair
- it’s likely it won’t have enough rest and play time.
Cruelty to animals is against the law in every state and territory. We also can’t fund a support if it’s against the law in your state or territory.