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March 17, 2011

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Guide dog star's owner quits job over pet

A BLIND woman whose guide dog found Internet fame after it was photographed on the Metro has quit her job in a dispute over the animal.

The three-year-old guide dog, named Liang He - which means Shine and Harmony in English, became a web hit when a passenger photographed it lying quietly at the feet of its owner on a Metro train. Guide dogs are an unusual sight in China.

Owner Li Ping, aged 23, had recently been given the labrador but left her job as a blind masseuse in late January because her employer would not allow it to stay with her.

She has remained unemployed ever since.

"I was asked to choose between the job and my dog, and I didn't hesitate," said Li.

Managers at the massage parlor said the dog had to stay in the janitor's room while Li worked, which she did not agree to. "He could not be left with strangers for a long time, which risks harming his trained abilities. I also feared losing him during my absence," she said.

Liang He was provided free by a Nanjing-based guide dog training center. The center is pioneering efforts to bring guide dogs to help the visually impaired in China.

There are more than 130,000 blind people in Shanghai, but only 13 professional guide dogs, all provided by the center.

Li's experience is not unique, as other blind people have complained of problems getting their dogs accepted.

They are frequently prevented from using buses and taxis because of complaints from drivers and passengers.

Metro management told Shanghai Daily they allow guide dogs on trains unless other passengers complain.

China has no law to guarantee access to public transport for guide dogs but Shanghai's government has urged people to accept them.


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