New Disability Regulations Now Include Mini Horses as Guide Animals

By Elizabeth Harrington

June 26, 2012

Mona Ramouni, who is blind, rides a bus to work with her guide horse in Lincoln Park, Mich. Growing up in Detroit, Ramouni could never get a dog because her devout Muslim family considered dogs unclean. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio/File)

(CNSNews.com) – Although the Justice Department has extended  the deadline for America’s hotels to comply with regulations regarding  handicap access to swimming pools, new Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) guidelines are already being applied at miniature golf courses,  driving ranges, amusement parks, shooting ranges and saunas.

Among the provisions in the “Revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design,” which went into  effect on March 15, is one requiring businesses to allow miniature  horses on their premises as guide animals for the disabled. Another  limits the height of slopes on miniature golf holes.

“The new standards, for the first time, include requirements for  judicial facilities, detention and correctional facilities, and  recreational facilities,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said during a conference in Baltimore on June 7.

“We expect the implementation of these accessibility standards to  open up doors for full participation in both the responsibilities, such  as jury duty, and the benefits, such as playing at city parks, of civic  life for people with disabilities,” he said.

“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,” the rules state.  Also  mentioned as a reason to include the animals is the longer life span of  miniature horses – providing approximately 25 years of service as  opposed to seven years for dogs.

“Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have  flown commercially with their miniature horses,” the Justice Department  notes.

“Similar to dogs, miniature horses can be trained through behavioral reinforcement to be ‘housebroken,’” it adds.

However, “Ponies and full-size horses are not covered.”

A business owner can deny admission to a miniature horse that is not  housebroken, whose handler does not have sufficient control of the  animal, or if the horse’s presence compromises “legitimate safety  requirements.”

The miniature horse addition has come under the scrutiny of at least  one member of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who offered an  amendment that passed the House, banning funding to implement the  provision. Chaffetz penned an editorial last month in opposition to the  rule entitled, “Horses in the Dining Room?

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