For much of the country, seeing a service dog at work is common and wouldn’t warrant a second glance. Dogs have long served children and adults at home, work and in schools. On August 14th, the state of Illinois made national news when Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill approving the use of miniature horses as service animals under the ADA.
Like many domesticated animals, horses have been used for therapeutic purposes for years helping those with physical and emotional disabilities. More recently, miniature horses have been specially trained to assist children and adults on a one-to-one basis. With the recent passing of Governor Quinn’s bill, these horses (weighing between 70-100 pounds) will now be allowed in schools and public areas. Additionally, the law states that horses are only to be used as an alternative to service dogs when it is decided they are more appropriate for the individual.
Despite the passing of the bill, debate still runs hot through both disability and animal rights advocacy groups. Proponents of the law explain that horses have better eyesight, live longer lives and aren’t allergy concerns providing a better alternative to their canine counterpart. On the other hand, there is concern about horses as a “flight” animal, their depth perception and also confusion about what these animals will do when the human needs to sit or lay down for a while as horses are physically unable to do either for a long period of time.
Nonetheless, groups around the country will be watching Illinois closely over the coming months as the state adopts its new law.