January 18th, 2011 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TriMet's New Service-Animal Rule Could Allow Miniature Horses

Miniature horses

Our latest edition of Portland Afoot newsletter reminded us about TriMet's plan to adopt new rules for service animals, modeled after new federal regulations on the same topic, on March 15.

Those federal rules say a "service animal" is a dog trained to assist a person with a disability—not any other animal or a dog whose only job is to give emotional comfort. Until TriMet adopts its new rules on March 15, local transit riders can bring any pet aboard a bus or train if they say their pets aid their owners in some way, and if the animals are kept under control.

Interestingly enough, the federal rules have an exception for miniature horses, which have been used increasingly as adorably named "seeing-eye ponies" elsewhere in the country. "A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability," the federal rules say.

But TriMet's new rules say anyone who wants to use a service animal other than a dog must apply to TriMet's general manager Neil McFarlane to seek special permission. Last month, members of TriMet's Committee on Accessible Transportation recommended TriMet go ahead and adopt the federal guidelines giving miniature horses automatic approval, according to Portland Afoot.

"The reason they're being used is they live twice as long as the dogs do—it's an investment," James Jackson, a CAT member, said in December, according to Portland Afoot. "They don't have the same kind of establishment funding source in the United States [as dog guides]. I think it's just a matter of time, really."

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 10:10 am, CAT will hear from a TriMet lawyer on the new regulations. Depending on the lawyer's answers, CAT may seek changes to TriMet's proposed service animal rules as they related to miniature horses, Jan Campbell, a CAT member, tells WW.

Speaking of horses, last week Portland City Council adopted new rules concerning horse-drawn carriages. Those regulations limit the days and hours that horse buggies can operate in Portland.
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