While most restaurant employees know that service animals are allowed to accompany their owners in the public areas of restaurants, if a customer with no apparent disability enters a restaurant with a service dog, questions and confusion can arise. A lack of awareness and not knowing the law as it relates to service animals can lead to misunderstandings, angry customers, bad publicity and at very worst - potential lawsuits. Find out more about your rights and responsibilities in our latest TRA News Now.
The ADA definition of service animal is limited to dogs. However, many people are unaware that the regulations make one exception to this definition to recognize miniature horses that have been individually trained to perform a task or service for a person with a disability as service animals.
Individuals with disabilities may choose miniature horses as an alternative to dogs for various reasons including religious observance and allergies to dogs. Miniature horses can be trained to perform many of the same tasks as dogs. They range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders, and weigh about 70 to 100 pounds.
The 2010 revised ADA regulations include a separate provision addressing miniature horses. These regulations state that covered entities, including public accommodations, must modify their current policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. There are four assessment factors entities may use to determine whether or not miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility:
- 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 compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.
Miniature horses are permitted to accompany a person with a disability to any place that members of the public are allowed to go such as restaurants, theatres, retail shops, grocery stores, etc. Both service dogs and miniature horses must be individually trained, housebroken, and under the handler’s control at all times when out in public.