Miniature Horses the New ADA Service Animal?

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Ramouni and Cali

Mona Ramouni rides a SMART bus to her job with her guide horse, Cali, in Lincoln Park, Mich., Thursday, April 9, 2009. Ramouni lost her sight soon after birth, but she can't use a guide dog. Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and Ramouni respects her parents' aversion to having one in their home. The solution, she hopes, is Cali, a miniature horse who stands 30 inches tall and is being trained to help Ramouni through her daily routine. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

e new Americans with disabilities Act guidelines have been shaking up the industry, and this particular news story demonstrates that perfectly — if a bit on the extreme side, but new and different nonetheless.

Most people who require the aid of a service animal use dogs. In some cases trained assistance monkeys have been used, but assistance dogs are the “norm”. But new federal guidelines in ADA also permit the use miniature horses!

Currently, five miniature horses serve as assistance animals to the blind.

The article mentions some of the benefits and some of the difficulties of using minis as assistance animals, such as, they don’t attract fleas but they do get other parasites like ticks. A mini is about the size of a Newfoundland dog so physically they aren’t larger than a dog, but they do require more physical space for living, a stall, and an environment in which they can move about and interaction with other horses. Both a dog and a mini can be houstrained, though dogs are fed and walked a couple of times a day whereas horses eat hay and grass and produce waste all through the day. Minis can be fed grass and hay in the form of pellets, though experts cautiuon that this can cause ulcers.

Overall, the choice to use a miniature horse as a service or guide animal is probably not going to be something that everyone opts for, and experts don’t believe that this is going to be a sudden trend that individuals in need of service animals will rush out to join. Though a few experts are worried that some individuals may rush into choosing a mini for a service animal and then leave them homeless if things don’t work out.

You can read the full Washington Post article here.

The article also introduces you to Michigan State University student Mona Ramouni and her miniature guide horsel, Cali. Ramouni chose to use a mini because of her family’s devout Muslim upbringing which consider dogs to be unclean. Ramouni has pushed hard for the acceptance of using miniature horses as service/guide animals, petitioning the Department of Justice to include minis in the new ADA law.

If you’d like to know more about Ramouni and her mini Cali, a blog has been set up to document their lives together, at http://www.theeyesofmona.blogspot.com.

Related:
Associated Press. “Miniature Horse Is Lone Exception to Dog in Federal Law Governing Service Animals for Disabled.” The Washington Post. Associated Press, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011.

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