Lawsuit over refusal to allow miniature horse inside

A miniature guide horse at work.
A miniature guide horse at work. © Todd Sumlin

A disabled man who uses a miniature horse to pull his wheelchair has filed a lawsuit in California for being refused access to two stores.

The action was made possible by changes to Justice Department regulations which allowed suitably trained miniature horses to officially qualify as service animals, in the same way as guide dogs for the blind. The updated regulations took effect last year.

The action is being taken against a clothing retailer and a computer games store.

The plaintiff is  Jose Estrada, who uses a horse, Princess, in preference to a dog because the latter does not have the strength to pull his wheelchair. Estrada is seeking at least $US4000 in damages.

Critics predicted the change in regulations would spark lawsuits.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, has publicly voiced his concern over the change, pointing to the inevitable civil action.

He told Fox News:  “Do we really need to saddle businesses with more regulation? I say, ‘Naaayyy.’ Every scenario in life does not need a rule or regulation.”

Restaurant owners have also voiced concern, raising concerns around hygiene and whether the miniature horses could reliably be house-trained.

However, the Guide Horse Foundation says on its website: “Guide Horses are very clean and can be housebroken.”

The website lists a series of pluses for the use of miniature horses as service animals, including a long lifespan, calm nature and great memory.

It says trained horses remained  focused on their work and were not easily distracted.

“Horses are not addicted to human attention and normally do not get excited when petted or groomed.”

They are also safety conscious. “Naturally safety oriented, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger. All horses have a natural propensity to guide their master along the safest most efficient route, and demonstrate excellent judgment in obstacle avoidance training.”

The animals also possessed good stamina and can easily travel many miles in a single outing, the foundation said.

“Many guide dog users report problems getting access to public places because their dog is perceived as a pet. Most people do not associate a horse as a pet, and guide horse users report that they are immediately recognized as a working service animal.”

Latest research and information from the horse world.

3 thoughts on “Lawsuit over refusal to allow miniature horse inside

  • April 3, 2012 at 11:50 am

    For goodness sakes…. how is letting a mini guide horse into a store any different to letting a guide dog in? It comes down to personal choice for the disabled person, so let the guy do what he wants. Geez. It’s not such a big deal.

    • April 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      well it’s not simply a preference, it’s the law. it’s been the law for over a year, now. i have service dogs and i have lived in several states. the WORST state for access INCLUDING hawaii, is california!! and this state has MANY service dog training facilities and programs. along with all the other lawlessness in this state, service dogs are refused entrance to THIS day and i can only imagine the reaction to a mini horse. i, personally, experienced issues with marie callendar’s in sacramento, ca., just last weekend, if you can believe it!

      there just isn’t any excuse for this state to be so close minded and to get away with constantly breaking the law. and if you call the police, they are CLUELESS. california state penal code 365.5 through 365.7 protect the rights of disabled and their service animals in addition to the federal AMERICANS WITH DISABILITY ACT. print these laws and carry them along with this article.

  • April 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Typical Republican/Conservation response regarding any regulations on business. If it were not for the regulations already in place, service animals would be unwelcome in most business establishments. The regulations are necessary because too many refuse to do the “right” thing.


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