One year on, service dog Molly the terrier has been embraced by Ainslie School
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One year on, service dog Molly the terrier has been embraced by Ainslie School

It's a year since Molly the terrier started her job as a service dog at Ainslie School. She's been warmly embraced by the school but the little dog has found she is not welcomed everywhere.

Molly has been ejected from a chemist and a restaurant despite the fact she is legally recognised as a service dog who is trained to keep a close eye on eight-year-old twins Hannah and Olivia Weber, who are in year three and have diabetes and severe anxiety.

Molly, a certified service dog, attends Ainslie School with twins, Hannah and Olivia Weber, who have diabetes and anxiety. The rest of the school loves her as well.

Molly, a certified service dog, attends Ainslie School with twins, Hannah and Olivia Weber, who have diabetes and anxiety. The rest of the school loves her as well.

Photo: Jay Cronan

According to the Federal Disability Discrimination Act, all assistance dogs like Molly are guaranteed access to all public places in Australia, as long as they meet acceptable standards of hygiene and behaviour.

And they can come in all shapes and sizes.

Assistance or service dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are legally allowed into all public places.

Assistance or service dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are legally allowed into all public places.

Photo: mindDog
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The girls' mother, Adrienne Cottell, said there was a challenge getting the community to understand that service dogs who looked like Molly were doing a job just as important as a regulation labrador Guide dog.

She said Molly was aware of changes in the behaviour of the twins which might lead to a hypoglycemic attack and also helped keep their stress under control.

Ms Cottell said the family had "broken all boundaries" with Molly as the girls were not allowed to have an assistance dog in their former Queensland school.

"All the children at Ainslie School know her name and Molly cannot wait to get out of the car when we arrive at school. She sees school as an awesome adventure. We had a lot of doubters at the beginning, but this has become a success story," Ms Cottell said.

Assistance or service dogs wear an identification vest when they are in public places.

Assistance or service dogs wear an identification vest when they are in public places.

Photo: mindDog

Ainslie School principal Kate Chapman said Molly had had a profound effect on the school, so much so there was talk of another dog coming into the school as a companion for students.

"The decision to have Molly for us was a no-brainer simply because it's legislated, she is a service dog and welcome here," Mrs Chapman said.

Assistance or service dogs are legally allowed in all public places as long as they meet hygiene and behaviour standards.

Assistance or service dogs are legally allowed in all public places as long as they meet hygiene and behaviour standards.

Photo: mindDog

"The leadership team are all dog people and that also made it easy for us. We worked out who would take her for a walk at recess and lunch to do her business and where.

"And as she's become part of the furniture, children will go to her if they feel sad and look for a hug or a lick.

"We don't want to do that too much as she has a job to do and that is to look out for Olivia and Hannah. So it is a balance.

"We'd love another dog. There's lots of kids who could use a dog at school for reassurance and for a hug or a pat or to read to."

Dogs on the Run co-owner Carolyn Kidd, who helps train Molly in obedience, said she had noticed big changes in the twins since the arrival of their canine companion.

"I see them in class and in the playground and they have really grown in confidence and seem to have come out of their shell. I think having Molly at school with them every day has helped them enormously," she said.

Janelle Naughton is a trainer and client for mindDog which trains psychiatric assistance dogs to help anyone with a mental illness or another medical condition that affects their mental health.

There are about 450 mindDogs across the nation, with more than 60 in the ACT.

Ms Naughton said they were all legally certified and wore vests for identification.

She said a mindDog could be any size or any breed of dog and it was just a matter of increasing awareness that they did have access legally to public places.

Ms Naughton said if a mindDog was being unruly, it could be asked to leave a place but otherwise it was there to help its owner lead a happy and fulfilling life.

Megan Doherty

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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