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LCQ19: Guide dogs

     Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li Wah-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (February 16):


     Guide dogs for the blind (guide dogs) have not been seen on the streets of Hong Kong for many years.  It has been reported that the newly established Hong Kong Guide Dogs Association (HKGDA) has imported puppies and after they have been trained to become guide dogs, they will be given to suitable visually impaired persons for guiding their way.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has assessed what complementary work is needed following the introduction of guide dogs; if it has assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether there are government and public bodies' facilities which at present do not allow entry of guide dogs; if so, whether the Government has any improvement measures to complement the introduction of guide dogs;

(c) given that the existing subsidiary legislation of some public transport, eg public light bus, tram, Ngong Ping Cable Car and taxi, etc, does not provide that visually impaired passengers may bring their guide dogs when using such public transport, and only provides that the people in charge may decide at their discretion in this regard, whether the Government will amend the relevant subsidiary legislation to stipulate in writing that visually impaired passengers may bring their guide dogs when riding on such public transport, so as to complement the introduction of guide dogs; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) given that it has been learnt that at present some private premises, eg restaurants and hotels, etc, stipulate in writing that dogs, including guide dogs, are not allowed to enter, whether the Government will work with HKGDA to promote permission of entry of guide dogs to these premises; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(e) whether the Government will follow the practices of other countries such as Japan in enacting legislation on guide dogs to prohibit commercial buildings, cinemas, shops and all community facilities from denying entry of guide dogs which provide assistance to persons with disabilities; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(f) how the Government ensures that guide dogs will receive proper care during their service and retirement; and

(g) given that Hong Kong people are relatively unfamiliar with guide dogs, whether the Government will enhance public education to teach the public how to get along with guide dogs and their owners?



     The objective of the Government's rehabilitation policy is to offer necessary support for persons with disabilities, including persons with visual impairment, to enhance their capacity to lead an independent life, thereby improving their quality of life and facilitating their integration into the community.  To this end, the Government has been making proactive efforts in developing the rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities and creating a barrier-free living environment.  We also welcome any new ideas put forward by various sectors of the community for the continuous enhancement of the rehabilitation services.  My reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Li Wah-ming is as follows:

(a), (d) and (g)  In general, support measures for introducing guide dogs, including puppy breeding, medical care, dog raising and training etc, will be provided by the Hong Kong Guide Dogs Association (HKGDA).  When a guide dog goes into service, its daily needs, feeding, vaccination etc will be taken care of by the visually impaired person whom it serves.

     The Government welcomes HKGDA's project of introducing young guide dogs and has contacted HKGDA to obtain further details of the project.  The Government stands ready to offer assistance where required to facilitate the implementation of the project.  In fact, with the support of the Government, a rehabilitation organisation is applying for grants from a charitable fund to launch a pilot training scheme for guide dog users.  Apart from introducing guide dogs and providing training and follow-up services for the users, public education activities will be organised under the pilot scheme to promote public awareness and acceptance for the use of guide dogs by the visually impaired.

     Meanwhile, the Government will continue to enhance public understanding of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities through public education.  Apart from territory-wide publicity efforts, we have also increased funding to subsidise non-governmental organisations and the 18 District Councils, etc to organise public education activities.  Organisations are welcome to apply for funds to hold public education events, including activities which aim at enhancing the understanding of guide dogs by the business sector (eg hotel and catering sectors).

     Furthermore, entry of guide dogs into food premises is permitted under existing legislation.  While Section 10B of the Food Business Regulation (Chapter 132X) stipulates that no person shall bring any dog onto food premises, the Regulation provides for an exception for the presence of a dog serving as a guide for a totally or partially blind person.

(b), (c) and (e)  According to the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 487), refusing to allow a visually impaired person accompanied by a guide dog to enter any premises that the public is allowed to enter, or refusing to provide that person with services or facilities may be construed as a contravention of the Ordinance.  The premises, services and facilities covered by the Ordinance include hotels, and facilities for banking services, education, entertainment, recreation, transport, etc.

     The Government and public bodies allow guide dogs accompanying visually impaired persons to enter their premises, including public facilities frequently visited by members of the public (such as recreation venues, civic centres, public libraries, museums, public markets, etc).  For public housing premises under the Hong Kong Housing Authority, there is no restriction on the entry of guide dogs, and tenants with visual impairment are allowed to keep licensed guide dogs.  As regards schools, if visually impaired students need to bring along their guide dogs to schools, the schools will make suitable arrangements.

     Regarding public transport facilities, the relevant legislation governing the MTR Corporation Limited, franchised buses and the Peak Tram currently permit the boarding of guide dogs accompanying blind persons, whereas those on other transport modes (such as the tram, ferries, taxis and public light buses (PLBs)) allow the drivers or operators to decide at their discretion whether to give such permission.  The tram and ferry companies have all along allowed guide dogs accompanying blind persons to ride on trams and ferries as appropriate, and provided guidance to their employees, reminding them to offer assistance to passengers in need.  As for taxis and the PLBs, guide dogs accompanying blind persons are allowed on board under normal circumstances.  The Transport Department (TD) has been encouraging the transport operators through various channels to provide passengers in need with appropriate assistance.  TD will continue the promotional efforts in this regard.  As the existing arrangements have been implemented for a long time and proved effective, there is no need to amend the relevant legislation.

(f)  As mentioned above, the daily needs of a serving guide dog will be provided by the visually impaired user.  When a guide dog reaches an age that is no longer fit for service, HKGDA will arrange for its retirement and adoption by a suitable person/family.

Ends/Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:31


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