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School won’t let dog accompany wheelchair bound boy

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The 12-year-old Radek has been suffering from an inborn muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair bound. Still, he is able to study with his healthy classmates. Only now a problem has appeared: Radek wants his beloved dog to go to school with him.

His case, which has been even under the investigation of the ombudsman and the school supervising authority Česká školní inspekce, started in the summer of last year. Radek’s mother told the school principal that the family was going to purchase a guide dog for their son. “The school head didn’t comment on it. So I made sure that the parents of my son’s classmates didn’t mind the dog at school,” Gellnerová said.

Who would walk the dog?

Míša, a retriever bitch, is indeed helping Radek today. At least at home. She works as an extended hand for him, she opens the door and hands shoes to him. The parents say their son has a strong emotional attachment to the dog and therefore it would be good if the two could be together also during Radek’s classes.

However, the school headed by Jiří Šíma eventually did not comply with their request. “We received a statement from the sanitation office and the pediatrist. It seemed that neither of them were recommending it,” the principal Šíma said. Within six years of Radek’s school attendance the school made it possible for him to be able to move without obstacles on the school premises and also built a wheelchair platform lift at the school entrance [nájezdní postranní plošina]. Radek has an individual education programme and a pedagogical assistant. A dog on top of it would be allegedly too much.

“We tried to find out if there was a guide dog in any of the Czech schools – and unfortunately we haven’t found any. If a pupil didn’t have a pedagogical assistant or was blind, that would be something else. But as it is, the presence of a dog in class would be superfluous,” a representative of pupils’ parents Martin Novák said. The question is who would walk the dog and take care of it, plus some children are allergic to dogs, some are afraid of them, Novák said. Even handicapped children in Prague’s Jedlička Institute do not have an assistance dog.

Nevertheless, the Pomocná tlapka [Helpful Paw] civic association, whose instructors train guide dogs, says that there are about ten dogs in the Czech Republic that go to school with a handicapped child. “It’s essential that the animal spends as much time with the child as possible, so that a relationship could develop between them. The dog must obey its master,” said Jiří Tomáš, a guide dog instructor. Guide dogs, whose training costs CZK 200,000, have to undergo tests every year. “If he didn’t learn to obey Radek, the dog could even be taken away from him,” Radek’s father said.

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