Two aspects of this article have been examined;
National Rail Travel
In France the partially sighted or blind traveller uses a full fare ticket while his or her guide or guide dog travels for free on the national rail network. Additional charges incur where a ‘reservation' fee or a ‘seated' ticket is required. Concessionary fares are often not fully endorsed by high-speed rail networks. Compulsory ‘reservation' fees can vary depending on the travelling period. By and large semi-private and private carriers operating high-speed trains at national level do not apply the concessions endorsed by public rail companies.
Regional Rail Travel
The regional concession scheme is the same as the national scheme : the partially sighted or blind traveller uses a full fare ticket while his or her guide or guide dog travels for free.
Urban Rail Travel
There are various location-specific urban concession schemes. The concession system may vary from city to city, depending on factors such as local government or on the local transport company.
Transnational Rail Travel
The French Railways (SNCF) signed the IUR Agreement on Rail Transport for Blind People and their Guide issued in 1997 and amended in 2005. Visually impaired people residing in and travelling to any of the countries who signed this Agreement are entitled to a free ticket for their guide or guide dog provided that the return ticket is purchased in the country where the disability card was issued. In practice the Agreement does not apply to additional fees such as ‘reservation' or ‘couchette' which must be paid in full for both passengers. Furthermore, a survey conducted by EBU in 2000 revealed that in many countries the Agreement was not well known or was simply ignored by transport operators and authorities.
The signatories of the agreement are companies rather than States and many of the existing transnational routes are not covered by the Agreement. In practice many high-speed routes carry their own scheme. The Lyria train (France-Switzerland) operates on exactly the same basis as a French TGV: the visually impaired pays a full fare ticket while the guide or guide dog only pays the ‘booking' fee (11 Euros on average). The Eurostar (Belgium-France-England) operates a full fare for the visually impaired and offers a 60% concession to the guide.
There are deplorably no provisions for the blind and partially sighted on the Artesia train (France-Italy) nor on the Thalys train (Germany-Belgium-France-the Netherlands) which only runs concessions for wheel chair users. The Thalys brochure states that specific concessions are made available to the visually impaired public but repeated tests conducted by EBU in 2008 revealed that the software used by booking agents did not contain a concession category for blind or partially sighted people and their guides.
In theory, it is impossible to benefit from French schemes as a foreign visitor as locally-financed concessions are limited to local residents. In practice, concessions are sometimes granted depending on the willingness of ticket vendors.
How many guide dog users are there in your country? The number of guide dogs varies on a day to day basis as new dogs enter service and others are withdrawn. Please provide an estimate figure.
There are currently 1,500 units at work in France.
What regulations, if any, govern guide dogs access to:
Public buildings (administration, hospitals, schools, etc.)
Cultural and sports facilities (cinemas, theatres, museums, libraries, stadiums etc.)
Leisure facilities (restaurants, hotels, holiday centres, beaches, etc.)
Retail facilities (supermarkets, department stores, shops, etc.)
The new Law of 11 February 2005 guarantees free access for guide dog users to all places and facilities open to the general public: public buildings and transports, shops, hotels, restaurants, museums, etc. Sanitary restrictions limit access to rooms and care units in hospitals, kitchens in catering facilities, etc.
You can be required to show your disability card and a document identifying your dog as a trained guide dog.
However it may happen that your interlocutors are unaware of guide dogs access rights. The best attitude is to inform them, a smile being your best advocate!
What are the regulations for the import and export of dogs into/from your country, including quarantine and vaccination procedures?
Are exceptions made for guide dogs?
Are the regulations such as to restrict spontaneous voyages?
In some cases, yes.
How much time is needed to fulfil the requirements?
For the first time
For subsequent visits with the same dog
This actually depends where you come from, but you should be aware that in some cases, you should prepare your first journey to France at least 4 months in advance. See complete information at: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/nocomm_third_en.htm
The Eurostar Company allows guide dogs on their trains, including those to and from Britain. The measure has been implemented since August 2003.
What will be required?
In any case:
A. A microchip (complying with ISO Standard 11784 or capable of being read by ISO Standard 11785) must identify your guide dog. A clearly readable tattoo applied before 3 July 2011 is acceptable.
B. Your dog must have been vaccinated against rabies (primary and booster vaccinations) and the vaccine be valid. Within the EU a first vaccine is considered to be valid after 21 days.
If you are coming from a EU country or
from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and The Vatican:
Ci. You must have the EU passport for your pet certifying its identity and rabbies vaccinations.
If you come one of the countries listed below:
(eg Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, USA etc.)
Cii. You need a health certificate executed by a certified veterinarian in your country. English version: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/sanco10767r4_en.doc
If you are coming from another non EU country:
Ciii. Your guide dog must have a rabies neutralising antibody titration test (a blood test) by a EU-approved lab (http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/approval_en.htm) at least 30 days after vaccination and 3 months before arrival. The result of the test must be equal to or greater than 0.5 IU/ml.
Once performed, there is no need to renew the test if booster vaccinations have been made ever since as prescribed by the vaccine producing laboratory. If the booster rules are not respected, the pet will have to be tested again after a new vaccination and will again be considered to be in conformity with the rules only three months later.
D. You need a health certificate executed by a certified veterinarian in your country.
We advise you to check whether specific requirements apply to come back to your own country.
That's it! Don't forget to bring your guide dog's health certificate or passport and the documents proving rabies vaccinations and the titration test results with you!
List of countries covered by reply Cii above:
- Ascension Island
- United Arab Emirates
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Netherlands Antilles
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Falkland Islands
- Hong Kong
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Cayman Islands
- Saint Lucia
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- French Polynesia
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon
- Russian Federation
- Saint Helena
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United States of America (including GU — Guam)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- British Virgin Islands
- Wallis and Futuna
Is there a certification process for the training and provision of guide dogs? If yes, please provide basic details, in particular on the difference between mandatory and optional certifications.
As an election campaign promise by President Chirac, a new law on disabled persons' rights came to life in 2005. The French Federation and the Users' Association were consulted throughout its realisation to define national standards for a guide dog school to have an official label so as to allow the blind persons who receive their guide dog from such a school to have a monthly grant for the care of the dog. (However the schools that will not get the label will not be prevented from producing guide dogs.)
Here are the main criteria for a Guide Dog School to have the official label:
- Existence of an agreement entrusting the dog to each recipient of the grant for animal aid, in order to guaranty the handicapped person a follow-up of the dog ensuring the security and efficiency of the aid.
- Existence of a document providing detailed information on the selection and the origin of the puppies;
- For each dog, an individual record of veterinary health and temperament, regularly kept throughout the assistance lifetime of the dog;
- Puppies must be placed free of charge with a puppy-walking family for at least 10 months for a guide dog and 16 months for an assistance dog;
- The dogs must be trained for at least 6 months in view of assisting persons;
- Ensure a re-homing of quality for the dogs once they have finished working as assistance dogs for the handicapped persons;
- Employ guide dog or assistance dog instructors holding the official qualification for that purpose, registered by legal decree;
- Have an allocation committee in charge of studying applications for dogs and of deciding, on the applicants' ability of using and taking care of an assistance dog or a guide dog, after an interview with the applicants and under provision of a medical certificate dated from less than 3 months. This committee must include at least a physician, a qualified dog instructor and, for guide dogs training centres, an Orientation and Mobility instructor holding the official O&M degree for visually impaired persons delivered by the State Secretary in charge of the Handicapped Persons;
- Only allocate an assistance or a guide dog to the persons holding an invalidity card under Article L. 241-3 of Social Welfare and Families Act (ie usually more than 80% visually impaired);
- Organise, before any official allocation, a matching course for the visually impaired person and the dog, no shorter than 2 weeks. Concerning the allocation of a guide dog, one of those 2 weeks must take place where the visually impaired person actually lives; Obey the technical criteria defined by decrees of the State Secretary in charge of the Handicapped Persons and the State Secretary of Agriculture and Fishery.
Is there an allowance or other financial aid to help guide dog users with the upkeep of their animals (food, veterinary, etc.)?
The visually impaired persons who receive their guide dog from such a labellised school are entitled to a monthly grant for the care of the dog (circ. 50€ per month).
Law 2005-102 from 11 February, 2005 on the Equality of Rights and Chances, the Integration and the Citizenship of the Handicapped Persons
Decree 2005-1776 from 30 December, 2005 concerning the labels of assistance dogs and guide dogs training centres
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