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Guide Dogs Give Sight to the Blind

Shanghai's first guide dogs could be with their new owners after February next year, said authorities for the path-finding program on Sunday.

There are about 158,000 visually impaired people living in Shanghai and a plan to introduce guide dogs was launched in March.

The first batch of six labrador pups from the United Kingdom, all aged about three months, were allocated to local families in March for the first phase of their training -- getting accustomed to everyday family life.

The house-training stage was completed in late September and the dogs then got professional training at the Nanjing Research Institute of Police Dogs.

Funded by Shanghai Disabled Person's Federation, the local guide dog training program gets technical support from the police institute while the Japan Guide Dog Association is also giving advice to their Chinese counterparts. Two of the labradors were withdrawn from the program after failing to meet the required standard, said an official with the Nanjing research institute on Sunday at a meeting with Japanese counterparts.

"We need laws and a complete mechanism to be established for the training and effective use of guide dogs.

"We still have a very long way to go in this field in China but it's good to see authorities are already making efforts," said Zhou Yong, an official with Shanghai Association for the Blind.

The second batch of 12 guide dog candidates went to local volunteer families in August and September to adjust to everyday life in Shanghai. They will return to the training school in Nanjing after six months at their first homes.

It takes 18 months to fully train a guide dog.

Families who are interested in taking pups for their initial training period should call 5873-0906.

(Shanghai Daily December 3, 2007)

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