Bremhorst, A., Mongillo, P., Howell, T., & Marinelli, L. (2018). Spotlight on Assistance Dogs-Legislation, Welfare and Research. Animals: an open access journal from MDPI, 8(8).
Assistance dogs are a very diverse group of working dogs that are trained to assist humans with different types of disabilities in their daily lives. Despite these dogs’ value for humankind, research on their welfare status, cognitive and behavioural capacities, selection criteria for the best fitting individuals, effective training and management practices, and genetic issues are so far lacking. This review highlights the need to address these topics and to promote progress in legal issues around assistance dogs. The topic of assistance dogs is approached comprehensively by outlining the current status of knowledge in three different dimensions: (1) the legal dimension, outlining important legal issues in the EU and Australia; (2) the welfare dimension; and (3) the dimension of research, covering assistance dog selection and training. For each of these three dimensions, we discuss potential approaches that can be implemented in the future in order to support assistance dog working performance, to protect the dogs’ welfare, and to improve our knowledge about them. Additionally, there remain many legal issues, such as the presence of assistance dogs in public areas, the resolution of which would benefit both the assistance dog and the owner with disability.