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Miniature horses have federal recognition as service animals

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Miniature horses have federal recognition as service animals

For many, the itty bitty horses are wonderful, smart pets. Increasingly though, miniature horses are being used as service animals, much like guide dogs you may see walking through the mall. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea though, and store and restaurant owners who more than welcome the dogs aren’t so hip on the horses. Interestingly, the American Miniature Horse Association opposes the service aspect as well. But lawsuits with federal rules on their side usually prevail, and a recent one reminded business owners that miniature horses are on the acceptable service animal list, like it or not.

From Foxnews:

But the rules were a lawsuit waiting to happen, according to critics. And sure  enough, a suit was filed earlier this month in Los Angeles, by a man [Jose Estrada] who uses a  wheelchair and keeps a miniature horse named Princess — and who claims a local  GameStop and Marshalls refused him and his horse service.

The organization [National Restaurant Association] has a few gripes. First, many  business owners just don’t know about the rule, and are only familiar with dogs  being a traditional service animal. [VP Angelo] Amador said those that do know have concerns  the animals aren’t housebroken.

“You cannot train a horse … housebreak them like  you would do with a dog,” he said.

The regulations on service animals were first put  out in September 2010, as part of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The rules, which went into effect later, actually  narrowed down what used to be a broad definition for service animals. For most  purposes, the Justice Department decided to recognize only dogs — but the  department added an exception for miniature horses after being “persuaded”  regarding their benefits to the disabled.

The guidelines noted that the horses can be “viable  alternatives” for people who are allergic to dogs or whose religious beliefs do  not allow them to be around dogs.

“Another consideration mentioned in favor of the use  of miniature horses is the longer life span,” the guidelines said. They can  provide “service” to the disabled for more than 25 years, as opposed to roughly  seven working years for the typical dog. Plus the horses, despite their petite  size, can be stronger.

Estrada is suing for “no less than” $4,000 in  damages.

The federal rules state that businesses should allow  in the horses as long as they’re trained, considering such factors as the size  of the horse, whether it’s under control, whether it’s “housebroken,” and  whether its presence would compromise “legitimate safety  requirements.”

The Guide Horse Foundation, though, says on its  website that the horses “learn exactly the same behaviors as a guide dog,” and  that they “never bite or kick except when attacked.”

The use of miniature horses as service animals,  though, has created a bit of a rift in the miniature horse community.

The American Miniature Horse Association does not  condone the use of miniature horses for that purpose. Association President  Harry Elder applauded those who have received “ADA certification” to train  animals but questioned the use of miniature horses.

Read the entire article HERE.

The Guide Horse Foundation can be reached HERE.

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