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The Diet enacted a law Wednesday that makes it mandatory for public and transportation facilities to permit the entry of helper dogs that accompany disabled people.

The law, passed by a House of Councilors plenary session in the afternoon, will take effect Oct. 1. It aims to make it easier for people with disabilities to use public facilities.

In addition to public and transportation facilities, disabled people will be permitted to have their helper dogs live with them in public housing. Beginning in October 2003, owners will also be able to stay with their helper dogs in hotels, supermarkets and restaurants.

While seeing-eye dogs are recognized under the Road Traffic Law, the new law will give legal status to dogs that assist the hearing impaired as well as people with other disabilities. These dogs had been considered pets. Under the law, the dogs will be legally defined as those aiding the blind, deaf or otherwise disabled, and the elderly.

It includes a section to encourage private facilities, including business offices and rental properties, to allow guide dogs to accompany disabled people into them.

The law stipulates that such dogs be trained and certified at government-designated institutions.

Officials said that there are fewer than 30 such dogs in Japan, and that the government will provide subsidies to encourage more canine training so their use becomes more popular.

The law urges the national and municipal governments to educate the public on the importance of the dogs’ roles, and asks the public to assist disabled people with such dogs.

The bill to create the law was submitted to the Diet in December by a suprapartisan group of legislators who were moved to action by appeals for such legislation by Yoshitomo Kimura, 41, a programmer confined to a wheelchair from Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. The bill cleared the House of Representatives last month.

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