Union recommends practices update rules regarding assistance dogs
LONDON, UK: According to Assistance Dogs UK, over 7,000 disabled people in the UK rely on assistance dogs to help with practical tasks, yet many dental practices still maintain strict policies prohibiting the presence of dogs on their premises. To address this situation, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) has proposed that dental practices ensure that their policies are updated so that patients can attend appointments together with their assistance dogs.
In the latest issue of its journal, the DDU notes that, under current equality and discrimination law, healthcare professionals have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure access to dental treatment facilities for patients with assistance dogs. This includes not only guide or hearing dogs, but also dogs that help patients with other conditions.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association explained that, while “there may be areas within the health facility where a guide dog may not be permitted due to infection control or health and safety issues”, in these cases, alternative support is required for the patient and a suitable location should be found for the assistance dog to be left safely.
Dr Alison Large, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, commented: “If a staff member is allergic to dogs or has a phobia, then the practice should take reasonable steps to minimise that individual’s exposure to assistance dogs. However, neither are valid reasons for denying an assistance dog entry to the practice.”
The DDU is the specialist dental division of the Medical Defence Union. Its journal can be accessed here.