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Disability assist dogs now protected in law

blind woman walking with guide dog

The Green Party has changed the law to ensure people do not face discrimination for having a disability assist dog.

“The law in New Zealand should unequivocally support disabled people to live fulfilling lives and today we have taken a step closer towards a more inclusive future for Aotearoa,” says Ricardo Menéndez March.

The Human Rights (Disability Assist Dogs Non-Discrimination) Amendment Bill passed its third reading today with the unanimous support of Parliament.

“We’re stoked to have achieved cross-party support to strengthen the rights of disabled people,” says Menéndez March.

“The Human Rights Act will now be amended to state that a person cannot be a denied a service – such as a home or transport – simply because they have a disability assist dog.

“This change has been long overdue, but I am delighted we could make it happen.

“It was a honour to guide this important legislation through Parliament. However it must be acknowledged that the journey this bill has been on was started, not by me, but in 2015 by former Green MP Mojo Mathers.

“Thanks to Mojo and the work of the community we can now look ahead to a future where no one in Aotearoa can have their rental application turned down, or be prevented from getting around their community via private or public transport, because they have an assist dog.

“We are also grateful to the people who had their say on the bill at select committee, particularly those with lived experience of discrimination. The bill is better for your input,” says Menéndez March.

“This Bill is for the late Murray Whittington and for his hearing service dog, Frodo,” says former Green MP Mojo Mathers.

“Murray couldn’t find anywhere to live because property managers refused to rent to him just because he had a disability assist dog.

“I drafted my bill because people need to stop viewing disability assist dogs as ‘just a pet’ and excluding people who have them from everyday life. Finding somewhere to live is already hard enough, but to have your rental application turned down time and time again purely because you have a disability assist dog is just wrong.

“They are far more than that. Disability assist dogs make an invaluable difference to their owner’s life — they enable their owner a quality of life and independence that they otherwise would not have.

“By spelling out that disability assist dogs are covered under the law, it is now clear that you cannot deny disabled people a service, like accommodation, just because they have a disability assist dog,” Mojo Mathers says.

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