Move Over, Dogs: Mini Horses Make Great Service Animals, Too!
It’s no secret animals and humans have always had a special bond. For instance, consider dogs and their use within therapeutic interventions and emotional support, or dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Many of us are aware when there is a service dog in the vicinity – not because they are loud or causing disruption, but due to the general excitement of seeing a dog (if you’re a dog lover like I am).
Have you ever thought of what the excitement level would be if you were to spot a service animal that was…a miniature horse? You read that right – a miniature horse being used as a service animal! Although it is obviously not as common to see as a dog, it is allowed within the updated policy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even though, according to the ADA for title II and III (state, local, and public), “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or to perform tasks for people with disabilities” (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section), the guidelines now include an add-on section including miniature horses within the legal definition.
“Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable” (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section). Miniature horses are usually 24-34 inches in height, between 70-100 pounds, and must follow regulations with similar factors as service dogs: they must be housebroken, they must be under owner’s control, the facility must be able to accommodate them, and they must not compromise the safety of the facility.
While there is a lot to think about when considering replacing a service dog with a miniature horse, it is an interesting concept! Miniature horses are also used for therapeutic purposes, and wouldn't it be fun to have a mini therapy horse visit your workplace or school? There are so many beneficial aspects to having an animal present (more productivity, lower anxiety levels, and higher satisfaction rates), and one can only imagine the benefits, smiles, and joy caused by seeing a miniature horse walking through one’s environment. Perhaps miniature horses are the new ‘dog’ and will become more normalized in the future. I certainly hope so!
Resources: ADA Service Animal Requirements
Emily Fatheree is an ABN intern and an Advanced Standing Student in the University of Tennessee's Master of Science in Social Work and Veterinary Social Work programs. She enjoys advocating for and with a variety of populations, and is passionate about informing others on important issues experienced by humans and animals around the globe.