Miniature Horses Now Considered Service Animals in IllinoisPublished August 28, 2012
Folks living in or visiting the great state of Illinois may be delighted when they catch a glimpse of a two-foot tall horse weighing-in at around 100 pounds who is assisting a disabled person.
And while today, it’s quite commonplace to observe service dogs at work, it is by no means an everyday occasion to encounter someone being assisted by a miniature horse working in the same capacity as their canine counterpart. This rarity, at least in Illinois, is about to change.
According to a news item recently published on the Sacramento Bee, on Tuesday, August 14, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill (to go into effect immediately) designating specially trained miniature horses as a service animal under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Miniature horses that have been trained to assist people with disabilities will now be permitted in Illinois schools and in all public places with the new state law in effect. Miniature service horses can weigh between 70 and 100 pounds, and be as short as 24 inches, according to federal officials.
Amending the Illinois Guide Dog Act (HB3826) to include unspecified animals other than dogs, Illinois State Senator David Koehler's amendment designates miniature horses in Illinois to be specifically recognized as service animals. This said under the rules of the ADA, miniature horses are only to be used as alternatives to service dogs when the use of service horses is more appropriate.
Whether a service horse is more appropriate than a service dog is a subject of debate. Some feel, as an article on TheHorse.com points out, that horses have excellent vision, and can be a better option than a service dog if a blind or visually impaired person is allergic to canines. Additionally, advocates point out that horses have longer life spans than dogs, and have greater stamina and excellent manners.
On the other hand, some feel that the use of miniature horses as service animals is never appropriate, and they are strongly against using them. An article on Guidehorseno.com argues that since horses innately are “flight” animals, the owner could be potentially hurt when a spooked horse becomes frightened and tries to run away. They also feel that since horses have poor depth perception, going down steps is difficult for them. Horses also are not physically capable of lying down or standing in one sport for any extended period of time.
What are your thoughts about miniature horses “working” as service animals? Tell us in a comment.