Guide dogs to show up at Paralympics

2008-07-27 13:26:43 GMT       2008-07-27 21:26:43 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

DALIAN, Liaoning, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Two guide dogs are expected to lead blind athletes during the Paralympics, the local government said.

The government of Dalian, a port city in Liaoning Province in China's northeast, donated two Golden Retrievers to the Chinese Paralympic athletic team on Sunday in a bid to help them at the opening ceremony and award presentations.

The dogs, each worth about 150,000 yuan (nearly 22,000 U.S. dollars), had received comprehensive training at the Dalian-based guide dog center, China's first, and were able to perform well, said Wang Jingyu, founder of the base established in 2004.

China has lagged behind the world in the training and use of canine guides. There are only six people in the Chinese mainland who own and use such dogs, according to Wang.

Walking with a large dog on the street is contradictory to regulations in many Chinese cities. In downtown Beijing, people can only walk their dogs early in the morning or late at night, and large dogs are strictly banned.

However, Chinese lawmakers adopted an amendment to the Law on Protection of the Disabled in April in the run-up to the Paralympics this September.

In addition to the adoption of preferential financial and medical policies, the amendment agreed to lift bans on guide dogs between July 20 to Sept. 20. This was in response to China's commitment of allowing the dogs to enter public places during the upcoming sporting event.

According to a circular issued by the municipal government of Beijing, blind athletes, officials or spectators are allowed to walk with their guide dogs in the capital during the two-month period after the animals are registered by an authentication commission.

"A guide dog is the best assistant to the blind. Allowing the use of the dogs in the Paralympics will give the blind more opportunities to join social activities," said Li Weihong, a member of the executive council of China Disabled Persons' Federation.

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