No fees for assistance dogs

Heidi Kraak

Owners of assistance dogs in the Latrobe Valley will soon not be required to pay registration fees.

Councillors voted for the change at a council meeting on Monday, which will put assistance dogs on par with registered guide dogs in terms of being exempt from fees.

Assistance dogs will need to meet criteria outlined in the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to be eligible.

The change comes after Gary Mitchell, who has an assistance dog to help him manage post traumatic stress disorder, raised the issue with mayor Graeme Middlemiss.

Mr Mitchell said he had raised it, not because he couldn’t afford registration, but “on principle”.

“It is not the fee that I’m worried about,” he said.

“They do it for guide dogs, for people with hearing dogs, but it is the principle here.”

Mr Mitchell’s Tibetan Spaniel, Wednesday, has been trained to help him manage his condition and he said the distinction relating to registration was important because “many people still think of [assistance dogs] as pets”.

Mr Mitchell praised the mayor and Cr Kellie O’Callaghan for escalating his concerns to council.

“Graeme [Middlemiss] has been fantastic through it all, Kellie O’Callaghan was spot on and so was Sharon Gibson,” he said.

“It has all been worth it.”