‘Allow guide dogs in public spaces’

Chan says it is important to go for yearly eye checks to prevent blindness caused by glaucoma. NORAFIFI EHSAN / The Star

THE findings of a campaign – to garner 100,000 signatures for public acceptance of guide dogs for the blind – has been handed over to the Federal Government.

The campaign by SOS Mission, a non-profit organisation founded by Stevens Chan, began in December last year. A total of 85,000 signatures was collected within 100 days.

It also calls for an amendment to the existing Disabilities Act 2008 to recognise animals as service dogs for the visually impaired.

At the launch of the “Journey of Sight” exhibition in conjunction with Glaucoma Awareness Week, Chan said the memorandum, detailing the benefits of having legal guide dogs, was handed over to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

Chan said a legal guide dog was one allowed in public spaces such as hospitals and buses. He said the organisation’s journey, once the proposal was approved, would be a long one.

“Once the Government approves it, we will need to speak to different parties to share with them the benefits of having legal guide dogs and how to manage it,” he said.

Chan added that it would take three years for a guide dog to be trained by his counterparts from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Chan and his guide dog Lashawn being escorted by security guards at a shopping centre in Seri Kembangan. — Filepic
Chan and his guide dog Lashawn being escorted by security guards at a shopping centre in Seri Kembangan. —Filepic

“It will be a long journey and we expect to produce the first trained guide dog in five years,” he said.

Chan said the current challenge was that most public spaces were off limits to the blind with guide dogs.

He made headlines when he went to public places with his guide dog, Lashawn, the nation’s first trained guide dog.

In the experiment, Chan was only allowed into three shopping centres.

He said government intervention was needed to look into the rights of people with disabilities.

Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye who was at the launch, said having guide dogs would help improve the mobility of the blind.

“The blind need to lead a normal life. This can be done and proven in other countries with well-trained and disciplined guide dogs.

“It is still a taboo subject when you talk about bringing dogs into trains but I hope this campaign will help create awareness and urge people to accept it.

“It has to be done. After all, Malaysia aspires to be a fully developed and industrialised nation. In countries that are developed and industrialised, guide dogs are accepted by the community,” he said.

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