Seeing the need for furry assistants


(From left) Syed Azmi and Lee presenting the Malaysia Book of Records certificate to Chan and LaShawn.

LaShawn Chan has been recognised as the nation’s first trained guide dog in the Malaysia Book of Records.

This announcement was made at an event held in conjuction with the UN’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

SOS Missions (SOSM), a non- profit organisation, organised the event at Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) at Jalan Raja Chulan to kickstart a public signature campaign to attain 100,000 signatures to urge for greater acceptance of guide dogs.

The organisation is campaigning for an amendment to the existing Disabilities Act 2008 to recognise animals like LaShawn as service dogs for the visually impaired.

LaShawn’s owner and SOSM founder Stevens Chan said guide dogs offer a wealth of benefits to the blind.

“More than 70 countries in the world have recognised guide dogs as service dogs.

“One of my blind friends and his guide dog are proof of this — his family doesn’t have to worry about him as much, and this is just one of the thousands of examples,” Chan said before relating how people have reacted to his guide dogs.

“I have been chased out from trains countless times.

“Once a shopping mall head ordered security guards to chase us out of the building.

“People should look at the behind-the-scenes training for guide dogs, instead of having so many biases against these animals,” Chan said.

Present at the conference was Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye who said guide dogs are more than pets.

“The campaign is not only about animal rights but also for the

disabled (OKU).

“These service dogs guide OKUs from one place to another and it is heartwarming to see them in action,” Lee said.

He acknowledged that the implementation of guide dogs for the visually impaired in Malaysia, may be sensitive topic for Muslims.

“However, we should take note that in 2003, Muslim authorities in Britain had allowed visually-impaired Muslims to engage the help of guide dogs in their daily routine,” Lee said. 

Social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi said a lack of understanding would have an adverse affect on the recognition of guide dogs as service dogs.

“We need to hold more dialogues to change the mindset of humans.

“I am more scared of human ignorance than of dogs,” Syed Azmi said.

A concerned Malaysian, Adam Lai, said the campaign was much needed.

“No one knows if we will eventually suffer from vision impairment.

“Campaigns like these help increase awareness of the importance of guides dogs among the public.

“The venue enabled us to experience what the blind experience in their daily life.

“We got a sense of how helpless it can be for the blind in unfamiliar places,” said Lai.

For details on the campaign, visit https://www.facebook.com/DogsForSight/

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