Attorney General Eric Holder has signed into law a modification of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) to specifically provide for Guide Horses!
Janet and I were honored to be summoned to the US Justice Department in Washington DC in 2008 to advise the DOJ on how to modify the ADA, and we are happy that our suggestions have been codified into Federal Law!
This is a huge win for all blind people who want to have many mobility options!
The new law specifically says that ONLY miniature horses and dogs qualify for rights under the ADA, and by omission, service monkeys and other species are excluded from the definition of a service animal.
It also says that a miniature hose is allowed to perform other tasks other than guiding the blind!
This is a major victory for all Guide Horse users, all across America!
Here is the new text:
Miniature horses. (i) A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
(ii) Assessment factors. In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider–
(A) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;
(B) Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;
(C) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and
(D) Whether the miniature horse´s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.
(iii) Other requirements. Sections 36.302(c)(3) through (c)(8), which apply to service animals, shall also apply to miniature horses.
Here are the supporting notes for allowing Guide Horses:
The Department has been persuaded by commenters and the available research to include a provision that would require public entities to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by a person with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
The traditional service animal is a dog, which has a long history of guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, and over time dogs have been trained to perform an even wider variety of services for individuals with all types of disabilities. However, an organization that developed a program to train miniature horses, modeled on the program used for guide dogs, began training miniature horses in 1991.
Although commenters generally supported the species limitations proposed in the NPRM, some were opposed to the exclusion of miniature horses from the definition of a service animal.
These commenters noted that these animals have been providing assistance to persons with disabilities for many years.
Miniature horses were suggested by some commenters as viable alternatives to dogs for individuals with allergies, or for those whose religious beliefs preclude the use of dogs.
Another consideration mentioned in favor of the use of miniature horses is the longer life span and strength of miniature horses in comparison to dogs.
Specifically, miniature horses can provide service for more than 25 years while dogs can provide service for approximately 7 years, and, because of their strength, miniature horses can provide services that dogs cannot provide.
Accordingly, use of miniature horses reduces the cost involved to retire, replace, and train replacement service animals.
The miniature horse is not one specific breed, but may be one of several breeds, with distinct characteristics that produce animals suited to service animal work.
The animals generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the withers, or shoulders, and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.
These characteristics are similar to those of large breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, and Mastiffs.
Similar to dogs, miniature horses can be trained through behavioral reinforcement to be “housebroken.”
Most miniature service horse handlers and organizations recommend that when the animals are not doing work or performing tasks, the miniature horses should be kept outside in a designated area, instead of indoors in a house.
According to information provided by an organization that trains service horses, these miniature horses are trained to provide a wide array of services to their handlers, primarily guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, pulling wheelchairs, providing stability and balance for individuals with disabilities that impair the ability to walk, and supplying leverage that enables a person with a mobility disability to get up after a fall.
According to the commenter, miniature horses are particularly effective for large stature individuals. The animals can be trained to stand (and in some cases, lie down) at the handler´s feet in venues where space is at a premium, such as assembly areas or inside some vehicles that provide public transportation. Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have flown commercially with their miniature horses.
The miniature horse is not included in the definition of service animal, which is limited to dogs. However, the Department has added a specific provision at § 35.136(i) of the final rule covering miniature horses.
Under this provision, a public entity must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
The public entity may take into account a series of assessment factors in determining whether to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility.
These include the type, size, and weight of the miniature horse; whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse; whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and whether the miniature horse´s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation. In addition, paragraphs (c)-(h) of this section, which are applicable to dogs, also apply to miniature horses.
Ponies and full-size horses are not covered by § 35.136(i).
Also, because miniature horses can vary in size and can be larger and less flexible than dogs, covered entities may exclude this type of service animal if the presence of the miniature horse, because of its larger size and lower level of flexibility, results in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the programs activities, or services provided.