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Interactions between the Public and Assistance Dog Handlers and Trainers

By B. McManus, G. Good, P. Yeung

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This research aimed to explore the experiences of handlers and trainers of disability assistance dogs in terms of the types of interactions they had with members of the Aotearoa NZ (NZ) public and how these interactions were perceived, interpreted, and managed. A qualitative method, guided by an interpretive approach and social constructionism, was utilised to collect data via semi-structured interviews with six handlers and six trainers of assistance dogs. Data were analysed using thematic analysis with the social model of disability as the theoretical base. Findings indicated that participants regularly faced a complex range of unique interactions due to various factors such as the public's lack of knowledge and understanding of the dog's role and right of access to public places. While participants encountered brief friendly comments about the dog and its role, other encounters involved long conversations, invasive personal questions, interference with their dogs, and denied access to businesses, cafés, restaurants, and public transport. These findings underpin the need to provide more education to the public on the etiquette of engaging with handlers and their assistance dogs and more support for businesses to understand the legal rights of handlers. Through education and support to change societal attitudes and remove structural barriers, disabled people using assistance dogs may be able to independently participate in community life and be fully included without hindrance.

Publication Title Animals (Basel)
Volume 11
Issue 12
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615 (Print)2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani11123359
Author Address School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.School of Social Work, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Assistance animals
  2. Disabilities
  3. Discrimination
  4. open access
  5. Service animals
  6. social interactions
  1. open access