The Washington County Board of Education could vote as early as Tuesday on the first reading of a new policy governing service animals for individuals with disabilities in public schools that would now include miniature horses, board officials said.
Board President Justin Hartings said the inclusion of miniature horses was due to federal law.
The board policy committee didn’t sit down with a list of farm animals and choose miniature horses, said Hartings, one of three board members on the panel.
The proposed policy states a service animal is “any dog, or under specific circumstances, a trained miniature horse, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”
A separate provision was added about miniature horses to the 2010 revised requirements for federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, found at www.ada.gov.
The revisions describe a miniature horse as being from 24 inches to 34 inches tall, measured to the shoulders, and usually weighing between 70 pounds and 100 pounds.
“Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable,” the revised requirement said.
To help determine whether a miniature horse can be a service animal, the ADA provides four assessments: whether the horse is housebroken; whether the horse is under the owner’s control; whether the facility can accommodate the horse’s type, size and weight; and whether the horse’s presence will not compromise the legitimate safety requirements necessary for the facility’s safe operation.
Trained miniature horses may be used as an alternative to service dogs, “subject to certain limitations,” according to March 2011 revisions the U.S. Department of Justice made to the ADA regulations.
“To allow flexibility in situations where using a horse would not be appropriate, the final rule does not include miniature horses in the definition of ‘service animal,’” the revisions said.
The proposed school board policy defines a person with a disability as someone “with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a person with a record of such an impairment; or a person regarded as having such an impairment.”