Welcoming guests with assistance animals

Updated 4 months ago | 5 min read
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Travelers with disabilities must be treated respectfully and without discrimination, as laid out in our Human Rights Statement and Anti-Discrimination Statement.

In many countries, partners are required by law to accept bookings from travelers with assistance animals without imposing additional fees or conditions — even if there’s a no-pets policy. 

Legal requirements on assistance animals vary based on location, so you should familiarize yourself and comply with local laws, or reach out to us if you have any questions. 

By welcoming assistance animals, you’re supporting the independence and freedom of people with disabilities.


In this article:


Understanding what assistance animals are

Certified assistance animals aren’t pets – they’re highly trained disability support aides. They play an essential role in helping individuals with disabilities engage in daily tasks safely and confidently, and in alleviating the effects of the disability. 

Here are some common types of assistance animals: 

  • Guide animals assist those who are blind or vision-impaired.
  • Hearing animals alert individuals who are deaf or hearing-impaired to specific sounds.
  • Service animals aid people with medical conditions or physical, sensory, or psychiatric disabilities by performing tasks related to the person’s disability.

Assistance animals are trained to meet hygiene and behavior standards that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. 

Emotional support, companion, and comfort animals aren’t classified as assistance animals. While these animals may support travelers with physical or mental conditions, they aren’t trained and certified to the standard of assistance animals.


Interacting with and welcoming assistance animals

When interacting with travelers and their assistance animals, treat them with dignity and courtesy, and remember that assistance animals are working. Here’s some guidance on what you should avoid doing:

  • Don’t distract, talk, call, or make sounds at assistance animals.
  • Don’t touch assistance animals without asking and receiving permission.
  • Don’t be offended if you’re asked not to pet the animal. 
  • Don’t feed the assistance animal.
  • Don’t ask personal questions about the traveler’s disability or intrude on their privacy.

Here’s some guidance to help you welcome assistance animals:

  • Educate all staff on the legal requirements and expectations for welcoming assistance animals. Don’t hesitate to share this page.
  • Update your policies and processes, including your non-discrimination policy for people with disabilities and your no-pets policy. These should contain guidelines for allowing access to assistance animals and establishing escalation processes. 
  • Raise awareness in your internal and external communications. 
  • Display information to welcome guests with disabilities, such as “Assistance animals are welcome” posters, at your entrance and on your website. 
  • Consider partnering with local assistance animal organizations on training, workshops, fundraising, or volunteering opportunities.

FAQ – Australia

  • In Australia, people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by certified assistance animals and to access public places, transportation, and goods and services, just like any other customer. These rights are protected under federal and state/territory laws.

  • In Australia, it’s illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities and their certified assistance animals – even if you have a no-pets policy.

     

     

    You must: 

    You must not:

    • Allow handlers and trainers with certified assistance animals to access your business, including premises, goods, and services.

    Note: 

    It’s illegal to refuse access to a person accompanied by a certified assistance animal, other than in limited circumstances permitted by federal and state/territory laws. Examples include: 

    • Reasonable suspicion that the animal has an infectious disease.
    • Reasonably necessary protections for public health or animal health, such as stringent sterility requirements.

    If the rights of other travelers or employees are impacted (e.g. allergy or phobia), you’ll need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate both parties, in compliance with local law. Refer to the Australian Human Rights Commission website for further information. 

    • Impose additional conditions, such as pet fees, cleaning fees, or extra deposits.   
    • Refuse access, entry, or use of your business, or access to goods or services.
    • Restrict entry to certain areas or rooms (e.g. smoking areas or pet-friendly rooms). They’re allowed to access all areas and rooms where travelers are normally allowed. 
    • Refuse a booking.
    • Separate a person with a disability from their assistance animal.
    • Use discriminatory language or conduct. 
    • Ask personal questions about the traveler’s disability or intrude on their privacy.

     

  • Violations of federal and state/territory laws in Australia can result in substantial fines and legal action against you and your company, as well as reputational consequences. 

    Violations may also result in a warning, suspension, or termination of your contract with us. Our contractual terms prohibit disability discrimination and require you to comply with applicable law. 

  • In Australia, certified assistance animals can be identified by badges or identification cards. You can request documentation for verification, but do so with sensitivity and respect for the guest’s privacy. Remember, not all forms of disability are obvious or visible. Refer to your state/territory regulations before asking for specific documentation for assistance animals. Guests visiting from other countries may have different forms of certification or identification.

  • Certified assistance animals in Australia are trained to be clean, well-behaved, obedient, and under the control of their handlers. They usually sit or lie quietly on the floor next to their owner and don’t wander freely. Control by the handler can include verbal or other non-physical control. Handlers are liable in the unlikely event of property damage.

    You’re not required to provide care or additional requirements for assistance animals. Their handler will bring their own necessary equipment for the animal. 

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