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Guide dogs now welcome in HDB flats: Khaw Boon Wan

It will now be easier for the visually-impaired to keep guide dogs in their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats.

SINGAPORE: It will now be easier for the visually-impaired to keep guide dogs in their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats.

HDB had said previously that guide dogs were not on the "approved dog list", though exceptions have been made for families who appealed.

In a blog post on Saturday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he has asked HDB to change the policy to an open one.

He added: "Guide dogs are welcome in HDB homes of their masters".

To further simplify the process, from Saturday, HDB residents who need guide dogs need only approach the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for licensing.

Mr Khaw said AVA will coordinate with the HDB, once an application is received.

Thus, there is no need for residents to submit a separate application to the housing authority.

The Building and Construction Authority has also included a design guide in its Code on Accessibility for the Built Environment to help architects and design professionals understand the space requirements for a visually-handicapped person with a guide dog.

Mr Khaw said that to visually-handicapped people, a trained guide dog can be a "life saver".

He cited the story of how a black Labrador guide dog named Orlando made the news recently when he protected his visually-impaired master who had accidentally fallen onto a New York City subway track.

Mr Khaw noted that because guide dogs are "not common (yet) in Singapore, our society is not yet as guide dog-friendly as in many developed cities".

In New York, for example, such dogs are welcome in restaurants.

Mr Khaw said: "It is the Year of the Horse. But let's be kind to all beings, including guide dogs."  

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