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LCQ14: Guide dogs

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (October 16):


     Some local organisations providing services of guide dogs have conveyed to me that while the use of guide dogs by the visually impaired is very common in foreign countries, only a handful of trained guide dogs are in service in Hong Kong at present even though it is estimated that as many as 400 visually impaired persons are fit to use guide dogs.  Moreover, there is a lack of qualified professional guide dog trainers in Hong Kong.  In addition, under the existing legislation, guide dogs under training (guide dog puppies) are not allowed to enter indoor public venues or take any means of public transport, and therefore they are unable to receive comprehensive localised training.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities will consider establishing a registration system for guide dogs (for example, by adding fields containing data on guide dogs/guide dog puppies to the chips implanted in dogs), compiling a central register of qualified guide dogs/guide dog puppies, and setting up a licensing and assessment system for guide dog trainers and users; if they will, of the implementation schedule; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) given the comment that as the households of public rental housing (PRH) estates, Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) courts and some private housing estates are not allowed to keep dogs, guide dog puppies may not be kept in the flats of such estates/courts, thus making them difficult to fully adapt to the living environment of Hong Kong in future, whether the authorities will consider relaxing the relevant stipulations to allow households of PRH estates and HOS courts to keep guide dog puppies; whether the authorities will promote the inclusion of a clause allowing households to keep guide dog puppies in the deeds of mutual covenant of private buildings;

(c) given the stipulation in the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 487) that it is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person with a disability by refusing to allow that other person access to, or the use of, any premises that the public may enter or use, or by refusing to allow that other person the use of any facilities in such premises, whether the authorities will consider extending the relevant provisions to cover people with guide dog puppies in company, in order to facilitate the provision of localised training to guide dog puppies; whether the authorities will step up publicity and public education on the relevant provisions;

(d) given that some guide dog service providers plan to introduce more guide dogs into service but currently there is no specialised dog training centre in Hong Kong, whether the authorities will consider allocating land free of charge to subsidise such service providers for the construction of a dog training centre; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether it has looked into the concrete results of the "pilot training scheme for guide dog users"; whether it has drawn experience from the scheme; whether the Government will provide more support to those organisations implementing the scheme, and support the continuous and full-fledged implementation of the scheme, with a view to enabling more visually impaired persons in need to benefit from the scheme?



     My reply to the questions raised by Hon Chan Hak-kan is as follows:

(a) At present, any person who keeps a dog over the age of five months must have the dog micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies, and obtain a licence in respect of the dog from the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation under the Rabies Regulation (Cap. 421A) (the Regulation).  The Regulation is made for the prevention and control of rabies and is designed to safeguard public health and safety.  By enforcing the requirements for licensing, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department manages and controls the keeping of dogs to safeguard public health and safety.

(b) Public rental housing (PRH) estates have all along been built on multi-storey design.  Keeping dogs in densely populated PRH estates not only leads to noise nuisance but also generates hygiene problem.  For these reasons, tenants are not allowed to keep dogs without the permission of the Housing Department (HD).

     However, if a tenant with visual or hearing impairment needs to keep a trained service dog, or an individual tenant is certified to have the need to keep a dog for emotional support, he/she may submit an application to HD.  HD would give discretionary consideration on individual merits.  Similarly, should a tenant with visual impairment wish to keep in his/her PRH flat a guide dog undergoing road-leading training so as to help the dog adapt to the living environment of PRH estates, HD would also consider the case on individual merits.

     Home Ownership Scheme is on par with private housing in terms of regulation by the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC) which is a deed among building owners.  Whether to allow a person with visual impairment to enter such buildings with a guide dog or a guide dog in road-leading training should be considered in accordance with the clauses stipulated in the respective DMC.

(c) According to the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 487) (the Ordinance), refusing to allow a person with visual impairment accompanied by a guide dog (including a guide dog undergoing road-leading training with a person with visual impairment) 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.

(d) & (e) Given that the introduction of guide dogs to Hong Kong is at its initial stage of development, our priority at present is to support its development and promote public awareness of the use of guide dogs.

     With the support of the Government, some rehabilitation organisations have obtained a grant from a charitable organisation to jointly launch the "Pilot Project on Guide-dog Users' Training" (Pilot Project).   Apart from providing matching service for persons with visual impairment with suitable guide dogs and training on the use of guide dogs, public education activities are also organised under the Pilot Project to promote public awareness and acceptance for the use of guide dogs by persons with visual impairment.  The rehabilitation organisations concerned are actively taking forward the Pilot Project, including assisting in following up the provision of professional support services regarding the daily living and medical care for the guide dogs.  They will also conduct a review on the effectiveness of the Pilot Project upon its completion.

     The Government will continue to maintain contact with the rehabilitation organisations, draw on the experience in operating the Pilot Project and monitor the development of guide dog services in Hong Kong with a view to facilitating the further improvement of rehabilitation services.

Ends/Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:41


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