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The benefits of assistance animals to people are widely discussed but the impact of the work on the animals must also be considered . Assistance animals face a unique set of challenges because they experience a number of processes to prepare them for the specialised roles and work they undertake , and because of the demands of their work and frequent changes to their living environment. There is limited research into this, with the following areas needing special attention to ensure the safety and wellbeing of assistance dogs (the main assistance animals used in Australia) across the various settings in which they are used. These areas should also be addressed with regard to other assistance animals:
The RSPCA acknowledges that assistance animals can have a positive and transformative impact on the lives of people. However, it is important that the welfare of assistance animals is also monitored, evaluated, and prioritised.
The RSPCA advocates the adoption of compulsory and enforced animal welfare standards and a registration and licensing system for situations in which animals are used for the purpose of assistance work. Compliance with compulsory standards for the breeding, rearing, training, management, housing, and transport of working animals must be made a condition of licensing (https://kb.rspca.org.au/rspca-policy-c03-working-animals_640.html). In addition, future research on assistance animals needs to move beyond a focus on the benefits to people to include an investigation of the experience and welfare of the animals, so we can identify practices that need to be discontinued or better managed. Safeguarding the welfare of assistance animals will ensure that these special human-animal partnerships are mutually beneficial.
 Burrows KE, Adams CL & Millman ST (2008) Factors affecting behavior and welfare of service dogs for children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 11:42–62.
 Serpell JA, Coppinger R, Fine AH & Peralta JM (2010) Welfare considerations in therapy and assistance animals. In: Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy. A. Fine (Ed.). Elsevier.