A guide dog on Beijing subway train. (File photo/Xinhua)
A blind woman was reportedly prevented from using the Beijing subway because her guide dog was not wearing a muzzle. Thepaper.cn commented on Monday:
Guide dogs are trained to assist the blind and visually impaired, so, unlike other dogs, they are often granted entry in public places. But Beijing permits guide dogs on subway trains only when they are muzzled.
However, according to those who train guide dogs, wearing a muzzle can prevent the dogs sticking their tongues out and panting, which is how they regulate their body temperature.
That at times puts transport staff in an awkward position as they need to ensure the right of visually impaired citizens to use public transportation while protecting other passengers, particularly children, from potential safety risks.
China is right to make legislative efforts to ensure guide dogs are permitted on public premises. On their part, local governments should elaborate on the fact that guide dogs are well trained and selected for their non-aggressive temperaments so that people are more receptive to their presence on public transport.
Putting muzzles on guide dogs could not only be life threatening to the animals but also exacerbate the unease of passengers who are scared of dogs. In countries such as the United States and Japan guide dogs do not have to wear muzzles.
Like many countries, China has made notable progress in training guide dogs to assist the visually impaired. But it still has a long way to go to raise awareness and acceptance of them, which matters a great deal to people in need of their assistance.