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Council Considers Expanding Guide-Dog Laws

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By Peter Granitz

The D.C. Council will consider today whether to grant guide-dogs-in-training the same access and rights that full service animals have.

Jo Anne Walser raises puppies as a volunteer for the Guide Dog Foundation, housing and training them from just weeks old until they're ready to move on to professionals who mold them into service animals worth tens-of-thousands-of-dollars.

They never leave her side, even when she flies or drives long distances for work.

At her home in Bristow, Virginia, she's teaching Opal, a 6 month-old golden retriever how to lead a blind person.

"The proper position for these dogs is different than your standard heel," says Walser.

She says the most important part of her job is exposing dogs to different environments, from the spread of land she has to crowded streets in D.C. But she says workers at the National Zoo have given her a hard time and a friend training a puppy was asked to leave the Lincoln Memorial.

She says the D.C. bill will make her job easier.

"There have been times where I've been some place in Virginia where somebody started giving me a hard time and I pull out the law and say: 'Oh by the way. Part of what we do is educate,'" she says.

A final vote could come later this month. It's already passed the Public Safety and Judiciary committees.

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