Last month, a black Labrador guide dog named Orlando made the news when he protected his visually-impaired master who had accidentally fallen onto a New York City subway track. Orlando tumbled onto the tracks and stayed by his master’s side as an oncoming train thundered right over them. What a gem! Thankfully, both escaped unscathed.
That is why I read with concern a recent Wanbao article about a guide dog here in Singapore, whose master was apparently taught to “hit the dog’s head” if it was not behaving appropriately. I am not Cesar Millan, but my experience with dogs is that vocal praise and food reward is more effective than the harsh “circus” type of training.
To the visually-impaired, guide dogs are indispensable: helping with their daily tasks such as commuting to and from work. They are specially selected and professionally trained. The outcome is that guide dogs have a wonderful temperament, intelligence and behave well.
Because they are not common (yet) in Singapore, our society is not yet as “guide dog-friendly” as in many developed cities. In New York, for example, guide dogs are welcome in restaurants. Such a policy expands the access of the visually-handicapped to such restaurants.
I asked NParks if they are “guide dog-friendly”. I got a positive reply.
I asked HDB a similar question. They said that guide dogs are not on the “approved dog list” but they have, upon appeal, made exceptions for families to keep guide dogs in their HDB homes. I told them to make it an open policy: guide dogs are welcome in HDB homes of their masters.
To further simplify the process, from today, HDB residents requiring guide dogs need only approach AVA for licensing. Back end, AVA will coordinate with HDB, thus shortening and simplifying the whole approval process. There is no need for another application to the HDB.
Besides this, BCA has also included a design guide in its Code on Accessibility for the Built Environment to help architects and design professionals understand space requirements for a visually-handicapped person with a guide dog.
It is the Year of the Horse. But let’s be kind to all beings, including guide dogs.
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