Association reveals plans for Singapore to become 'guide dog friendly nation'

SINGAPORE - Three initiatives to develop guide dog capabilities here were announced by a local non-profit organisation on Saturday.

The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB) plans to set up local guide dog training, hire Singapore's first local guide dog mobility instructor and campaign for a 'guide dog friendly nation'.

Such animals are usually trained overseas but for the first time, the association will train a guide dog right here in Singapore.

Jordie, an 18-month-old male golden Labrador from Australia, will be put through his paces by the association's part-time mobility instructor. After the 18 to 24 month course, Jordie will be ready for duty with his new handler.

"This long-term sustainable strategy will eliminate the need for clients to travel overseas to complete their guide dog mobility training," the association said in a statement.

GDAB is also looking for a candidate to become Singapore's first guide dog mobility instructor, who will be sent to Australia to undergo a two-year course.

Training guide dogs and instructors in Singapore would allow the GDAB to provide more mobility services at no cost to a greater number of vision-impaired people.

There are currently five guide dogs in Singapore, three of which were brought in by the association.

The Association's Guide Dog Friendly Nation campaign aims to encourage acceptance of these dogs and their owners, who have found difficulties taking them in taxis and restaurants.

The initiatives were announced at a Run for Light fitness event, which the association is a beneficiary of. Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee was guest of honour.

He said: "Besides the growing awareness of working guide dogs in Singapore, acceptance of such exemplary bona fide working animals is vital for these new programmes to be successful. I call on my fellow Singaporeans to embrace this concept and become a Guide Dog Friendly Nation in conjunction with our 50th birthday."