the civic centre in pontypool
The Civic Centre in Pontypool Credit: LDRS

THERE is no requirement for a council to allow “emotional support dogs” into its buildings a senior councillor has said. 

But councillors were told owners can tie their dogs up outside Pontypool’s Civic Centre “whilst conducting their business at reception”. 

The dogs are used by people coping with anxiety or other mental health conditions but Torfaen Borough Council has said it doesn’t admit them to its offices as they aren’t defined in UK legislation. 

Councillor Peter Jones, who is the Labour council’s cabinet member for equalities, said: “These are typically pets that provide emotional support and usually untrained and therefore more likely to cause a problem, a nuisance or display poor behaviour if allowed into our buildings.” 

The Cwmbran Two Locks councillor said as the dogs aren’t defined under UK equality legislation the council doesn’t have to accommodate them and said it is unable to provide for them but has placed “dog tie points” at the doors to the Civic Centre. 

Cllr Jones said: “Visitors with emotional support dogs can stay reasonably close by them whilst conducting their business at reception.” 

The only exception for allowing emotional support dogs into a council building would be if its owner has a disability as defined by the equalities act. 

It was also confirmed, as is required by equalities legislation, the council does admit assistance and guide dogs into its buildings. 

Cllr Jones said: “These are usually well trained and well behaved and unlikely to create problems or a nuisance and usually easily identified by their harness or jacket.” 

He was answering a question, at the full council’s April meeting, from independent councillor Janet Jones who asked “how confident” the council is “staff are aware that residents with service dogs have the same rights as those with guide dogs and disabilities that can be seen.” 

The Blaenavon member said “more and more people suffering from stress, anxiety, PTSD are using service dogs to help them combat their health issues”. 

The cabinet member said he understood the councillor to be referring to emotional support dogs which he explained don’t have the same legal standing as assistance or guide dogs and that staff are “well aware” they are expected to “abide by legislation.” 

He also offered to meet with Cllr Jones to discuss any individual cases “as the council will always try to mitigate or help residents” and to send her detailed guidance available in the public domain, he had been sent by the equalities officer.