“Imagine how surprised you would be if you go to your favorite restaurant and see a miniature horse with the people at the table next to you. You’d think, is that actually a horse?”
That’s the question KJZZ’s Steve Shadley recently posed in his article regarding Arizona’s new state law that will allow small horses to help the blind and people in wheelchairs in the same way dogs do.
Because besides dogs, now miniature horses will also be allowed in Arizona restaurants.
Under the new state law, horses below three feet tall will join dogs as the only service animals allowed inside public spaces like restaurants, hotels and shopping centers. It is the first time Arizona has a law that defines a service animal.
Republican State Representative Heather Carter introduced the service animal bill, and noted federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines were changed two years ago to include miniature horses so Arizona followed with its law.
Carter raises her own horses and says the miniature versions are sometimes preferred as personal assistants over dogs.
“A service horse might be stronger than a service dog, and quite frankly sometimes the horses are smaller than service dogs. Horses also live longer than dogs,” said Carter.
But Shadley claims not everyone agrees that miniature horses should be helping disabled people.
“Therapy situations are much different from service situations,”said Stephanie Haselwander with the American Miniature Horse Association in Texas, who adds little horses can be unpredictable and even dangerous.
“All horses are spooked easily, and the miniature horse is no different, but dogs have a little more of that sense of reasoning to where they can really be trained better for a guide dog situation or a service animal,”said Haselwander.
But some miniature horse lovers say they make great service animals. Marcia Sizemore, who has raised miniature horses for almost three decades, thinks it’s a good idea with the proper training.
Sizemore takes her little horse named “Mountain Dew”to visit people in retirement homes and hospitals. Sizemore’s horse is similar in size to a Golden Retriever, and rides standing up in Sizemore’s minivan.
Mountain Dew wears flowers in her mane and rubber shoes on her hooves to prevent her from slipping on the tile floor. She is not a trained service animal, but she does enjoy meeting people.
“Oh, she’s just as sweet as can be. She doesn’t get stressed and she doesn’t bite, she hasn’t kicked,” said Sizemore. “She’ll go from room to room, she’ll go up in the elevator, she’ll do pretty much whatever I ask her to do.”
Regardless of Haselwander’s warnings that miniature horse are dangerous and unpredictable, the law has been passed and the Arizona Restaurant Association is sending out notices informing restaurant owners about the new state law that requires them to allow disabled people to bring service horses or dogs inside of their businesses.