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Disability Assist Dogs

Also known as Assistance Dogs in New Zealand

An assistance dog has been individually trained to perform specific tasks and behaviours to assist a person with a disability. Assistance dogs aid people with disabilities in their everyday life and promote independence. 

Bradley - how it all began

Bradley, a special golden retriever, changed my life forever. He was my first specially trained assistance dog (in 1997) and through that role he introduced me to the world of assistance dogs and animal-assisted interventions (AAIs).

Living with a disability and having been supported by three assistance dogs since 1997, I understand the joys and challenges that come from the amazing privilege of an assistance dog partnership. As with my previous assistance dogs, Addie has learned many tasks to help me live. Some are lifesaving, such as alerting me to oncoming seizures and dangerous drops in oxygen saturation levels. At other times, her help with activities of daily living is crucial as I live life from a wheelchair. For instance, opening zips on bags to bring me items I needed or wanted, helping put my washing in and out of the washing machine and dryer, picking up dropped items, and opening doors and cupboards. Addie helps me to do things that matter to me thus giving me independence and the confidence to take on new challenges. This allows me to live life to the fullest. Addie's accomplishments need to be seen to be believed - click on this video link to see Addie in action: or watch the videos at the bottom of this page.

Photo of Bradley, a 10 week old golden retriever, dark gold in colour.
Photo of assistance dog Bradley, a golden retriever, handing Belinda a phone.
Photo of assistance dog Bradley, a golden retriever, and his owner, Belinda, sitting in nature. Belinda is kissing Bradley on the side of his face.

Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust (PPADT)

With the help of my assistance dog, Addie, I am the Programme Manager for the Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust (PPADT), which I founded in 2007 with my Assistance Dog Bradley. PPADT oversees the training and certification of Disability Assist Dogs to enable people with disabilities to enhance their quality of life using the human/animal bond. The relationship between Disability Assist Dog and owner helps to overcome physical, emotional and social challenges.

PPADT is committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities through the irreplaceable assistance that can be given by a Disability Assist Dog. These highly trained dogs provide invaluable support to people with a wide range of disabilities to enable them to live life to the full.


PPADT is a registered charity (CC22054) and is one of the New Zealand certifying organisations for disability assist dogs. For further information click

Addie is proudly sponsored by tlc4u2, a care provider based in Northland, serving the upper North Island. Read more about them here: These guardian angels have supported Addie and me through Addie's serious illness and we cannot speak more highly of them.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to see videos of Addie in action.

Photo of assistance dog Addie, a white golden retriever, with an epipen in her mouth (in a medical case). She is giving it to Belinda.
Photo of Assistance Dog Addie, a cream coloured golden retriever, at a lookout over a long black sand beach. She is wearing her working vest for Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust.

Disability Assist Dogs

To find out more information about disability assist dogs in the New Zealand context, click here. Companion Animals NZ (CANZ) has put this information together with input from the NZ certifying organisations for disability assist dogs. This includes information about:

  • Disability assist dogs in the New Zealand context

  • The organisations who can certify disability assist dogs in NZ with links to these organisations

  • Support dogs - this includes emotional support dogs and skilled companion dogs


In public, these dogs will wear a coat specific to their organisation. For example, the coat for dogs certified by Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust (PPADT) is shown here.

Dogs should not wear a coat stating that they are a service animal unless they are accredited by one of the eight certifying organisations. 

Facility dogs

Facility dogs are specially trained to assist professionals such as health workers, teachers and counsellors who work with people with additional needs and/or disabilities. Each dog has been extensively trained to perform tasks that motivate, inspire and enhance the lives of others. 

A facility dog works in a designated health care facility, residential facility, clinics and schools with a qualified clinician or staff member to achieve specific treatment or programme goals through animal assisted interventions. Facility dogs can help clinicians such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation therapists, social workers, mental health practitioners, speech therapists, GP’s and educators.

A facility dog is different to a service dog in that it does not work with a single individual to help them with their disability. A facility dog ‘works’ full time at the facility alongside and at the direction of its staff member. It must be trained to perform a minimum of three trained tasks to help in the clinical setting. Facility dogs are highly trained and have specialised skills that can be used in a therapeutic setting. 

Due to the risks to the dog, client, staff and facility, it is essential that a facility dog is trained and certified by a certifying organisation, such as PPADT. Under the guidance of PPADT all facility dogs will do training in foundation skills and task training. They will be vetted prior to acceptance and will participate in PPADT’s facility dog programme.

Assistance dog Addie with her working vest on, walking beside a wheelchair.
Photo of assistance dog Addie leaping down a small flight of stairs with two jandals in her mouth.
Assistance dog Addie is pushing the crosswalk button at a busy road. Belinda is in a wheelchair beside her.

Addie in action

Enjoy these videos which showcase assistance dog Addie helping Belinda

© 2035 by Norah Horowitz, Ph.D. Powered and secured by Wix

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