Centre to train dogs for deaf despite public transport ban
The mainland has launched its first centre to train guide dogs for the deaf, despite laws that ban such animals from public transport.
From next June, two trained handlers will teach up to 10 dogs a year to become unique hearing aids for their deaf owners.
The training centre is a partnership between Paralympics sponsor Samsung and Beijing Union University. Each dog will cost US$30,000 to train. Samsung's start-up 1.4 million yuan (HK$1.6 million) corporate social-responsibility fund will provide financial support for the animals for three years.
But it is unclear if the beneficiaries will be allowed to take the animals on public transport after the Paralympics because of Beijing's strict controls on dogs.
Lawmakers adopted an amendment to a law in April to allow guide dogs to travel on buses and the subway during the Olympics and Paralympics. However, the ban will be back in force from Saturday.
Qi Daxin, one of the first beneficiaries of the centre, said Bao Mei, a spaniel, had transformed his family's lives. 'She means we won't be such a burden on our daughter.'
Mr Qi, his wife and his mother are all deaf. For years, they have relied heavily on their daughter Jie, 25.
'The guide dog alerts us to the phone and text messages, the doorbell and alarm clocks,' he said. 'She is trained to listen for the fire alarm. Every deaf person or those with poor hearing in China should own one.'
But he said he was unsure if he was allowed to take Bao Mei on buses or the subway.
The South China Morning Post reported in March that Ping Yali, a partially sighted former Paralympic athlete, found his guide dog more of a burden than a help.
She was given China's first guide dog for the blind, but then found dogs are banned from the capital's buses and subways. Under Beijing's laws, all dogs must have a licence. If they are found on the streets without one they can be impounded and put down.
However, though dog management rules specify that guide dogs are entitled to a free official licence, there is no official institute qualified to certify and issue them.
Paralympic Games chief Wang Wei , executive vice-president and secretary general of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, was unable to clarify whether a permanent lifting of the ban would be a legacy of the 2008 Paralympics. But he admitted public transport for the disabled 'had a long way to go'.
He said ever-improving laws protecting the rights of China's 83 million disabled 'may take a while' to make a difference. However, 'the Paralympics is a big step forward'.
'We are very optimistic and confident the law will be implemented and the care for people with disability will increase.'
David Grevemberg, spokesman for the International Paralympics Committee, said the movement had not received any complaints from its members who had brought their guide dogs to China.
'We recognise that the safe and sound entry of guide dogs into China has worked effectively,' he said.