First pair of user and hearing dog passing test; appeal of more hearing dogs

A pair of the user and hearing dog first was certified each in Niigata and Nagano prefectures in February, 2010.

They are Junko Kato (68) with her hearing dog "Ikoma" (six-year-old Shih Tzu) from Niigata Prefecture, and Kumiko Murasawa (44) with her dog "Karu" (two-year-old beagles) from Nagano Prefecture.

They passed the qualifying examination of the Hearing Dogs Society, a non-profit organization to train and certify hearing dogs in Nagano Prefecture.

Neither the misunderstanding nor the prejudice about the hearing dog disappear because a social acknowledgment level is lower than the guide dog for the Blind. Parties concerned including the users are appealing, "We want people to know the hearing dog for the Deaf more".

The training of the hearing dog for the Deaf started in 1981 in Japan. There are 23 training groups according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

The Hearing Dogs Society, a leading group, picks up abandoned dogs that have the aptitude from the public health center, trains them for one and a half years or up to two years. Then a Deaf person as a partner lives with one of these dogs for several months. The pair takes the qualifying examination .

Junko Kato visited the Niigata Prefectural government, met with Vice Governor Kazuo Jinbo recently with her hearing dog "Ikoma", and appealed for support for more hearing dogs.

Only 20 hearing dogs are officially recognized in the country now. The Law Concerning Assistance Dogs for the Disabled enforced in 2002 recognizes that three kinds of guide dogs, each for the Blind, Deaf and persons with physical disability as an assistance dog equally. Yet, many public facilities refuse the admission of such a dog.

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