NDIS Assistance Animals & How to Qualify

Alice Newen | 20 October, 2023

            NDIS Assistance Animals & How to Qualify

We often see partnerships with animals as us taking care of them. But, in reality, this relationship has always been a two-way street. Dogs, cats, and other animals can take care of us too. This is especially true for assistance animals.

Isn’t it heartwarming to see them proudly wearing their dog harness and leash, helping their handlers cross streets or open doors?

It is, and it would have been truly wonderful if all individuals with disabilities could access such services. Unfortunately, reality isn’t as kind and accommodating as we want it to be.

1 in 6 Australians have a disability, or an 18% disability prevalence. But only a few get to have lovely assistance animals in their lives. Apart from restrictions in criteria, training and owning one can be very expensive.

Training an assistance dog costs up to $60000, and taking care of them costs $500 to $10000 annually. These expenses cover the dog’s food, checkups, vaccinations, accessories, and training. 

This is when NDIS becomes handy.

What is the NDIS?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is Australia’s national funding program supporting people with disabilities in gaining more independence, developing skills, connecting with the community, and improving their quality of life.   

Specifically, NDIS covers the costs of services, products, and equipment designed to make the goals and aspirations of people with disabilities possible, ensuring a more inclusive community life in the Land Down Under.

Today, NDIS supports over 500,000 Australians—a significant number, but still a long way to go before reaching the 4.3 million Australians with disabilities.

How the NDIS works

It sounds promising, but how do I apply? Am I eligible?

NDIS enforces specific eligibility requirements to ensure you’re qualified to receive support. These are:

  • Aged between 9 and 65 years (for children under 9, opt for NDIS early childhood approach)
  • Falls under any of the following residence categories:
    • Australian citizens
    • Permanent Visa holders
    • Protected Special Category Visa holders
  • Lives in Australia
  • Disability must be caused by a permanent impairment
  • Requires disability-specific support for daily life activities or for reducing future support needs and building family caregiving skills.

Remember, these are just guidelines. Connect with the nearest NDIS offices and contacts to verify your eligibility, process your application, and explore other options.

What are NDIS assistance animals?

Assistance Animals on NDIS

Source: Developing Australian Communities

Generally, NDIS funds support related to a person’s disability. Among these is having assistance animals. But what exactly are assistance animals?

Assistance animal (99% of which are dogs) is an umbrella term for animals specially trained to provide support for people with disabilities. Unlike regular pets, assistance animals perform tasks easing disability, can pass the Public Access Test (PAT), and fall under the following legal definitions (Disability Discrimination Act 1992,Section 9): 

  • Accredited under State or Territory law for assisting individuals with disabilities, or
  • Accredited by an animal training organisation, or
  • Trained to aid individuals with disabilities and adhere to appropriate hygiene and behaviour standards in public places.

Upon verification of its capacity to assist, all assistance animals must be given access to public places even without registration, as emphasised by the Companion Animals Act 1998. But officers in charge of public places and transportation are entitled to request reasonable proof proving the authenticity of your assistance animal.

While assistance animals greatly aid people with disabilities in their daily lives, their limited accessibility is mainly due to the associated costs, which NDIS Assistance Animals can help with.

Type of Assistance Animals NDIS Funds

NDIS covers only certain types of assistance animals, including:

1. Guide Dogs

Guide dogs or seeing eye dogs are specially trained (around 18 months)  to support individuals who are blind or have low vision (vision 6/60 or less and restricted visual field). Some of the tasks they perform are:

  • Guiding owners to destinations like workplaces, schools, and transit stops.
  • Safely navigating pedestrian traffic and stopping at curbs and crosswalks.
  • Avoiding obstacles such as people, bicycles, and low-hanging branches.
  • Following the owner's directional cues.
  • Identifying safe paths and locating doors and steps.

2. Hearing Assistance Animals

There are also fur babies for individuals with hearing impairments. Hearing dogs are trained to alert you to various sounds at home, in public spaces, and even in vehicles. They'll gently nudge or paw to get your attention and guide you to the source of the sound—not barking.

Some life-saving sounds they detect are:

  • Phone
  • Smoke alarm
  • Alarm clock
  • Doorbells and knocks
  • Crying babies
  • Horns

3. Physical Assistance Animals

These are dogs trained to provide physical assistance to individuals whose disability hinders their independent mobility. They perform both retrievals (e.g. dropped items and medications) and assistive works (e.g. carrying items and opening doors).

4. PTSD Service Dog

Assistance dogs for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are trained to alleviate specific symptoms, enhancing overall well-being. They guide individuals with trauma to safety, improve social connections, encourage community involvement, and restore functionality.

On the other hand, the following types of assistance dogs don’t usually meet the NDIS funding criteria:

  • Companion animals
  • Emotional support animals
  • Therapy animals
  • Facility animals
  • Visitation animals
  • Medical alert animals (insufficient literature on their effectiveness)

Clearly, there’s a need to redefine the NDIS assistance animal meaning to make services more inclusive to people with psychosocial disabilities

How do you qualify for an NDIS assistance animal?

NDIS Assistance Dog

Source: Blue Badge Australia

Having learned what type of assistance animals NDIS supports, it’s time to ask the real question: how to qualify?

Brace yourself. There's a lot to accomplish. But don’t worry, NDIS accredited providers like Guide Dogs Australia and Seeing Eye Dogs Australia will help you with the following steps:

1. Complete the Assistance Animal Form 

Although NDIS won’t strictly require you to use the Assistance Animal Assessment Template, the document contains the list of information and evidence you need to submit for the application, which are:

  • Participant and plan management details
  •  Assessment of participant needs
    • Background
    • Functional Assessment
  • Assistance animal assessment
    • Assistant animal tasks
    • Assistance animal trial outcomes
    • Participant experience with animals
    • Medical Impacts
  • Assessment of care and risks to the assistance animal
    • Behaviours of concern
    • Animal handlers
    • Home and other environments
    • School environment
    • Public Access Test (PAT)
  • Attachments
    • Detailed Quote
    • Behavioural Support Plan
  • Participant agreement with assessment
    • Agreement with AT request
    • Copy of assessment
  • Details of assistive technology assessor
    • Declaration
    • Assessor’s details
    • Assessor’s experience with assistance animals
  • Details of assistance animal provider
    • Declaration
    • Assistance animal provider details
    • Provider’s experience with assistance animals
  • Consent to collect and share your information

    To accomplish the requirements, you’ll need information and evidence from:

    • An accredited assistance animal provider to confirm the assistance animal can be matched to you and is qualified or is being trained
    • Allied health professionals to verify your need for an assistance animal.

    For guide dogs, use this dog guide assessment template as this document requires information specifically for individuals with visual impairments, such as vision background.

    2. Evaluation

    After completing the necessary documents, NDIS will evaluate your application and decide whether it meets the following criteria:

    • The support will aid your plan goals
    • This support will help you undertake activities with ease
    • The support is value for money
    • Adequate evidence that the support works for someone with similar disability support needs
    • The support is reasonable for family, friends and community to provide

    What may be funded?

    If you qualify for the funding criteria, NDIS will take care of the following expenses:


    To start your journey with an assistance animal, NDIS will include the following supports in your plan’s Capital - Assistive technology budget:

    • Buying or leasing a fully qualified assistance animal
    • The cost of the assessment to match the animal with you
    • Milestone payments during the animal's training with an accredited assistance animal provider


    NDIS will also support your assistance dog’s ongoing costs under your plan’s Core-Consumables budget, which usually averages $2,725.00 per year. These may include:

    • Food
    • Grooming
    • Vet Services
      • Flea and worm treatments
      • Medication
      • Vaccinations
    • Yearly reviews with the accredited assistance animal provider

    Remember, NDIS will only fund the maintenance costs of fully trained and qualified assistance animals, not the ones still in training, as training costs are deemed the provider’s responsibility.

    Retirement and Replacement

    Due to age or illness, assistance animals may retire before their expected 8-year working life. In such cases, NDIS can fund replacements but will require the following information:

    • If you still need an assistance animal 
    • If you can maintain independence with the assistance of the animal's support.
    • The reasons behind the reduced capacity or retirement of the assistance animal, for which the provider may be responsible for replacement costs under a guarantee or additional warranty.

    If a replacement is deemed necessary, communicate with your provider for the information that NDIS will require to assess the new assistance animal. Also, note that replacement might take 12 months as you have to be matched with a suitable animal again. During this time, NDIS will provide short-term assistive technology support.


    Understanding the processes, benefits, and considerations of NDIS assistance animals is vital for those involved in the scheme, as well as for the whole community. As we continue to embrace inclusivity and empowerment for individuals with disabilities, we hope this guide has shed light on the opportunities and potential improvements of assistance animal acquisition within the NDIS framework. 

    With the right knowledge and support, we can positively impact the lives of those who benefit from the incredible partnership of people and assistance animals.

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