Ever seen a guide dog when taking the MRT or public buses? If you've not, you're not alone - it's not a common sight here in Singapore, as I've gathered.
Most of my friends and colleagues whom I spoke to echoed the same observation. This was interesting to me since guide dogs are literally entitled to taking public transport.
In fact, I saw the first guide dog in my life while commuting via the Circle Line just the other day. As a dog lover, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Golden Retriever riding on the same train as I was. Patiently, it guided its visually impaired friend from one platform to the other, and up and down escalators.
Along the way, commuters looked unsure about what to do, except to make way when the duo came along.
And then it dawned on me: How well do we know the Guide Dog Laws in Singapore? What should we do if and when we cross paths with a guide dog?
The Guide Dog Law in Singapore
First, let's talk about the law.
Animals are legally not allowed on public transport. But guide dogs can, as long as they are accompanying a person with visual or hearing impairment. This exception extends to all trains and buses in Singapore.
There's also religious guidance from the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) to allay any concerns that our Muslim community may have in relation to sharing the use of public spaces with guide dogs.
How to identify a guide dog
Guide dogs are easily recognisable. When at work, guide dogs wear a yellow tag around their necks that say: "Do not Distract. Guide Dog at Work."
If I may add though, guide dogs - or at least the one that I had the chance to meet - are so at peace that they can be such a calming existence to be around 😊
How can you help?
You might be excited or afraid to see a guide dog at the train station or bus interchange. These are natural reactions especially towards things you don’t normally see in your day-to-day life.
But calm your heart and keep in mind these five things advised by Guide Dogs Singapore:
- Do not distract a guide dog on duty
- Do not feed the guide dog
- Offer assistance from the side opposite the guide dog, if requested by the guide dog user
- Always speak to the guide dog user
- When approaching obstacles, allow the guide dog team to proceed first before joining them on the other side
Remember that guide dogs have duties to perform and the least we can do is to help them execute their duties immaculately. That way, we enable independent exploration for Persons with Disabilities so they are able to move around more freely and with greater confidence.
So the next time you come across a guide dog, you know what to do!
I'll leave you to enjoy this video, which definitely explains way better than I do, the difference you can make just by being aware 🥰
P.S.: Refrain from giving the guide dog a friendly pat no matter how endearing it is to you 🙂 (I promise I won't too!)
Photos and video from: Guide Dogs Singapore