Boofhead allowed in RSL
Peter Reurich suffers from Social Communication Disorder which manifests in an aggressive demeanour and episodes of anxiety.
He has a Bearded Border Collie, Boofhead, who has been with Mr Reurich since the dog’s birth.
Boofhead is well groomed and has regular visits to the vet.
Mr Reurich’s said that when he does not have Boofhead with him, he feels like his is missing something and becomes anxious.
According to Mr Reurich’s psychologist, Tamara Lee, from her interactions with Mr Reurich, the presence of his dog seems to soften his demeanour and reduce his outward anxiety symptoms.
In 2014 Mr Reurich applied to mindDog, which is an organisation that assists people to procure, train and accredit psychiatric assistance dogs, and in 2015 Boofhead passed the mindDog public access test.
Mr Reurich was also a member of the RSL Club (the Club) in Jervis Bay. He had been a member of the Club since May 2013 and would go there to socialise.
Before Boofhead got his trainee jacket and licence, Mr Reurich would sometimes bring him to the Club but leave him outside; however, when Boofhead became a trainee service dog Mr Reurich brought him inside the Club, as he believed he had the right to do.
Concerned Boofhead was not a “seeing eye” dog, and not being aware that Mr Reurich had a mental disability, or that dogs could legitimately provide a service for people with mental impairment, Club staff and management questioned Boofhead’s papers which agitated Mr Reurich.
Not long after there was an altercation with the driver of the Club courtesy bus who complained that Mr Reurich’s dog was dirty and smelled.
Club staff member Ms Muscat made enquiries about service dogs with the Australian Human Rights Commission and mindDogs about whether a service dog could be denied entry because it was unkempt and unhygienic.
The advice Ms Muscat was given was that service dogs had to meet hygiene standards fit for a public place.
From December 2014 to June 2015 there were then a series of incidents where the Club staff refused Boofhead entry because they felt he was unkempt, dirty and smelled.
This agitated Mr Reurich, and his agitated responses saw him suspended from the Club and eventually banned for life.
Mr Reurich made a disability discrimination complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission which eventually finished in the Federal Court.
Judge Markovic of the Federal Court found Mr Reurich did have a disability and that the Club was aware of it.
The Club submitted that evidence didn’t establish Boofhead had been trained to assist a person with a disability or meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.
Judge Markovic of the Federal Court felt Boofhead met the standards to be a service dog for Mr Reurich’s disability and relied on assessment of Boofhead’s condition by mindDog to reach conclusion that the dog was also fit to meet public hygiene standards.
The judge also found the Club had discriminated against Mr Reurich on the grounds of his disability and ordered it to pay damaged of $16,000.
To read the full decision click here.
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