Obstacles and Anticipated Problems with Acquiring Assistance Dogs, as Expressed by Japanese People with Physical Disabilities

Mariko Yamamoto1,2, Lynette A. Hart1, Mitsuaki Ohta2, Koji Matsumoto2, Nobuyo Ohtani2
1School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, U.S.A.
2Department of Veterinary Science, Azabu University, JAPAN

In western countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, many people with disabilities benefit from the help their assistance dogs provide. In contrast, assistance dogs have not become widespread in Japan. This study explores the perspectives of Japanese people with disabilities, including the obstacles they have experienced when considering acquiring an assistance dog. A paper-based questionnaire was used to investigate the experiences of people with orthopedic, hearing, or visual disabilities. The results showed that a minority of participants with orthopedic (13.9%), hearing (31.6%), or visual (16.0%) disabilities hoped to live with an assistance dog. Younger people (18-59 years of age) hoped to have one more often than older people (over 60 years of age), which was related to their frequency of going out of the house. Younger people were more active in going outside regularly; older women were the least active. People with orthopedic disabilities were less active than those with other disabilities. Younger people were also more experienced in keeping dogs, and liked playing with them more. Younger women showed the greatest interest in living with an assistance dog, and older women the least interest; targeting information and encouragement to younger women may be most productive for placing dogs. Among people who did not hope to acquire an assistance dog, 6.1-11.6% of them felt sorry for dogs that are required to go through training, and 8.3-16.1% of them answered that they hated dogs. Our results indicated that Japanese are influenced by cultural, historical, and environmental contexts, and are not yet fully familiar with and accepting of the concepts of working dogs that are typical in the western countries. Most of the participants who hoped to live with an assistance dog had not actually applied for one. They gave the following reasons: there were inevitable negative aspects of living with dogs and sources of information, training systems, and policies by the governments and/or assistance dog organizations were cumbersome and inconvenient. The overall strategies to provide assistance dogs to people with disabilities need to be more accessible and accommodate the specific needs of the people who have disabilities.

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