The final four guide dog puppies among the eight sponsored by ‘Link Together Initiatives’, the flagship charity and community engagement programme under Link Asset Management Limited (“Link”), for the Hong Kong Guide Dog Association (HKGDA) arrived in Hong Kong this August. These cadets have already started their pre-school socialisation programme undertaken by their foster families.
Statistics shows that there are currently over 170,000 visually-impaired residents in Hong Kong but only less than 20 guide dogs in service. “We provide multiple ways to support the HKGDA as we see the importance of guide dog services. Besides donating to the HKGDA for local training, we make use of our properties as a community platform to solicit public support for their work. This includes offering barrier-free access facilities, aligning our tenants to welcome guide dogs onto our premises and, through various public education programmes, encouraging customers’ understanding to help integrate the visually-impaired into their communities.” said Nicholas Sallnow-Smith, Chairman of Link.
Being the ‘second pair of eyes’ for the visually-impaired, guide dogs offer invaluable help to their users by not only helping them to avoid hanging obstacles, leading the way to a destination safely, but also serving as a bridge for communications between their users and other people, not to mention how they provide close companionship in everyday life.
So, why are there so few guide dogs in Hong Kong given the huge demand? Mabel Chau, Chairman of HKGDA, explained that thorough assessment is required to determine the suitability of the application. “Not every applicant is suitable to use the guide dog service. Such factors include the desire to have a dog, the ability to take care of it and providing a stable home. For example, a visually-impaired elderly does not usually go out much and often cannot take care of him or herself. It would be quite difficult to care for a dog in these circumstances.”
On the supply side, the training and selection of a guide dog require a very stringent process. To ensure the safety of the user and the dog, a guide dog candidate must be a pure-blood and pre-tested to ensure its stability when performing duties before it can start receiving training. There are currently over 10 successful applications for guide dog services. ‘Link Together Initiatives’ will renew its donation to the HKGDA this year to extend its support of this service, including the localisation programme in training and breeding as well as expanding the outreach exercise to heighten public awareness of the service.
Naming Competition for Well Wishing
The four young puppies arriving in Hong Kong this August have been given names via a staff naming competition organised by Link. Faith, Freda, Gaga and Ginny received heartfelt cheers for their new careers as helpers to their future users.
Faith : Lead the way with faith
Freda : Peaceful guider
Gaga : New Life
Ginny : Pure