Assistance animals are trained to help people living with a disability increase their capacity to do day-to-day tasks. This can help you to live your life to the full.

Under Australia’s NDIS, they may pay for an assistance animal depending on your situation. There are many supports you can access to help you day-to-day, from a carer to assist getting ready in the morning, or someone to take you to an appointment.

There are rules in place for each of the supports. You could receive funding to pay for the care and training of your guide dog, but your neighbour may be refused assistance for a therapy dog. This can be confusing.

So, what will the NDIS fund when it comes to assistance animals? Here we explain the guidelines for assistance animals and the NDIS.

Does the NDIS fund animal-assisted therapy or therapy dogs?

  • You may get funding for an assistance animal
  • It has to be highlight trained
  • It must pass the public access test.

The NDIS does fund animal-assisted therapy and assistance dogs in Australia but only in certain circumstances.

Under the requirements of the NDIS funding authority, the NDIA, there are very strict guidelines to assess whether an assistance animal will receive funding under your plan.

Assistance animals are not just pets, and are not there solely to provide emotional support.

According to the current NDIS guidelines, assistance animals have to be highly trained and able to improve the ability of people living with a disability in at least three ways. The animal – generally a dog, but sometimes a horse or other animal – must be assessed as being able to do this.

They must also have been trained to behave well in a range of public places and situations, and not harm other people.

What assistance animals will the NDIS fund?

  • Assistance animals are often dogs
  • This can include dog guides
  • Therapy animals have to be guided by a qualified allied health professional.

An assistance animal potentially funded by the NDIS could include a guide dog trained to help people with vision impairments or hearing loss to get around, or a facility animal that works in a residential facility.

It could also include a therapy animal, led by a qualified allied health professional, that is trained for specific interventions, or a dog that helps a child with autism to manage their emotions or become involved in social situations.

There are also medical alert animals, such as epilepsy seizure dogs, that can set off an alarm or move in a certain way to protect the person experiencing a seizure.

How to get NDIS funding for an assistance animal?

  • The assistance animal support must meet the guidelines
  • You will need a report from an NDIS participant assistance animal provider and an allied health professional
  • The funding must be deemed reasonable and necessary.

In order to quality for funding under your individual NDIS support plan, you have to prove that the animal meets the criteria as an assistance animal.

Together with an NDIS participant assistance animal provider and an allied health professional you have to write a report to the NDIA that explains this.

So before you apply for funding consider how you will meet the guidelines.

You will have to set out the goal you want to work towards. It could be that have low vision and a guide dog could help you get to work more easily on public transport.

Then you have to make it clear that the assistance animal will help your overall social and economic involvement.

Finally, you have to explain how the cost for the assistance animal is reasonable, compared to other therapies that could help you towards your goal. For the guide dog on public transport example, this might mean comparing the effectiveness of a cane.

The NDIS will not fund dogs that have not yet been trained. Also, it will not provide funding for you to train your own pet as an assistance animal.

Once the animal is trained, the NDIS may pay for ongoing costs to care for it, such as food, grooming, vet services, vaccinations, medications and flea and worm treatments.

What impact can assistance animals have for people living with a disability?

  • Assistance animals can support people living with a disability
  • They can help some people with mental health management
  • Dogs can also help some people deal with social interactions.

For some people living with a disability, NDIS assistance animals can have a huge beneficial impact.

Trained assistance dogs can help with the emotional therapy for some people who experience anxiety, PTSD or those living with autism.

The NDIS can provide funding for assistance dogs to support emotional regulation or anxiety health management.

Assistance animals can help people to overcome their feelings of anxiety and go out in social situations. They can also assist some people to interact with others to make friends or stay calm.