Two aspects of this article have been examined;
National Rail Travel
In Germany, the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge on the national rail network. However, this concession only applies within 50 kilometres of the place of residence of the recipient. 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 at national level do not apply the concessions endorsed by public rail companies.
Regional Rail Travel
The regional concession scheme is closely modelled after the national system, whereby the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge on the national rail network.
Urban Rail Travel
The urban concession scheme is closely modelled after the national and regional systems whereby the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge on the national rail network.
Transnational Rail Travel
The German Railways (DB) 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. There are deplorably no provisions for the blind and partially sighted on the high-speed 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 reservation agents did not contain a concession category for blind or partially sighted people and their guides.
In theory, it is impossible to benefit from German 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.
DBSV believes that the number is between 1,500 and 2,000. No accurate figures are available as there is no central registration.
What regulations, if any, govern guide dogs access to:
Public buildings (administration, hospitals, schools, etc.)
On the basis of Art. 3 Basic Law (“Constitution”) banning
discrimination against disabled people, and the General Act
on Equal Treatment as well as related laws enacted by the
“Laender” guide dogs users have access to public buildings
with their dogs.
Cultural and sports facilities (cinemas, theatres, museums, libraries, stadiums etc.)
If the facility is privately owned, the owner may refuse access, invoking the householders' rights. The guide dog owner can then take legal action. The facility owner must use strong legal arguments to defend his case, otherwise he risks to be accused of discrimination.
Leisure facilities (restaurants, hotels, holiday centres, beaches, etc.)
The General Act on Equal Treatment governs civil law contractual relationships, chiefly in the fields of employment, bulk business, and private insurance contracts.
Retail facilities (supermarkets, department stores, shops, etc.)
See General Act on Equal Treatment above.
Local public transport: guide dog users who have the letter “B” on their disability card are entitled to take their dog free of charge on trains, busses, underground trains. Private taxis are considered local public transport. However, often taxi drivers refuse to allow the guide dogs into their car, or they try to charge the guide dog user something extra. From a legal point of view, a taxi company must not refuse transport and is required provide at least one car for the transport of the blind person and his guide dog. Guide dogs as a rule have access to ships and ferries on inland waterway transport, and to aeroplanes inside cabins.
What are the regulations for the import and export of dogs into/from your country, including quarantine and vaccination procedures?
Guide dog owners are required, like everywhere in Europe, to produce upon request a valid pet passport which officially records information related to all vaccinations the dog has had. In Germany vaccination against rabies and identification by microchip implant are mandatory.
Are exceptions made for guide dogs?
There are no exceptions to our knowledge.
Are the regulations such as to restrict spontaneous voyages?
How much time is needed to fulfil the requirements?
For the first time
First time vaccination against rabies must at least be 21 days old.
For subsequent visits with the same dog
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.
Unfortunately, there is none for guide dog trainers so far. As regards with ensuring “product quality” there are guide dog teams tests which are taken after the new owner has received training in using the dog.
Is there an allowance or other financial aid to help guide dog users with the upkeep of their animals (food, veterinary, etc.)?
Yes, there is. Guide dogs for the blind are considered as “technical devices” according to Art. 33 of the Social Security Statute Book, volume V (§ 33 SGB V). Therefore the ongoing costs for maintenance are met by the service providers (as a rule national health fund).