Miniature Horses as Service Animals
SUMMARY: Under the regulations for Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from the Department of Justice (DOJ), a service animal must be a dog and no other species of animal. However, there is a single exception to this rule: miniature horses. To their handlers, service miniature horses can offer important different benefits than those from service dogs.
ADA regulations from the DOJ state that dogs are the only species permitted to be service animals, with the single possible exception of miniature horses. As with their canine counterparts, miniature horses must be individually trained to perform a specific task for a person with a disability. As a service animal, a miniature horse has the right to accompany their handler in public places covered by the ADA.
For a covered entity (a Title II public entity or a Title III public accommodation) that is considering whether to modify its policy to allow a service miniature horse, the DOJ has four assessment factors:
- Whether the miniature horse is housebroken
- Whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control
- Whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight
- Whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility
Why a Miniature Horse?
Miniature horses have many strengths that make them suitable as potential service animals. Typically ranging from 24–34 inches in height and weighing 71–100 pounds, these strong animals can push and pull heavy objects. They can offer both balance and mobility assistance to a handler. They are intelligent and possess excellent eyesight, including 350-degree peripheral vision and night vision. They often serve as guide animals for individuals with vision-related disabilities. Miniature horses can carry out most, if not all, possible tasks of a service dog.
Why Not a Service Dog?
Some individuals prefer a miniature horse over a dog for their service animal. For one thing, miniature horses have a much greater longevity. They can live 25–30 years and offer a long service life of up to 20 years. For dogs, this time is much shorter. Another benefit of miniature horses is that they are easy to groom and shed fewer allergens than dogs. For many service animal handlers, this makes caring for their animal easier. Finally, miniature horses are an alternative for those who will not work with a dog for cultural or religious reasons.
While less common than service dogs, miniature horses can be a legitimate service animal. They must meet the same requirements as a service dog but can offer some advantages that make them more appropriate for some individuals with disabilities.
To read more or share this information, check out the Northeast ADA’s fact sheet, Service Animals Can Be Miniature Horses.