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Mini horse bill gallops through House

A bill to allow miniature horses in restaurants galloped through the House on Tuesday with only one dissenting vote, and will now head to the Senate.

And while allowing miniature horses in restaurants may sound like another zany idea from the Arizona Legislature, it would actually bring Arizona into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which recognizes trained miniature horses as service animals.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Heather Carter of Cave Creek, said her measure would solve a problem that the Arizona Restaurant Association is seeing more and more frequently: people bringing in all sorts of animals – including squirrels, parrots, ferrets and boa constrictors – and claiming they’re service animals.

Currently, state law defines service animals as dogs “or other animals” that are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.  People are abusing the vague language in statute, the Restaurant Association contends.

According to the federal law, business owners are only allowed to ask customers if their service animal is required because of a disability and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. They cannot ask for special identification or medical documentation for the animal, or to demonstrate the animal’s ability to perform service work or tasks.  Nor can they ask about the person’s disability.

While people can still lie about whether their dog or miniature horse is a service animal, if the bill becomes law, at least they won’t be able to say their pet rat is a service animal, Carter said previously.

The ADA added miniature horses to the two-species list of approved service animals in May 2011. Miniature horses range between 24 to 34 inches in height and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds, and live much longer than dogs.

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