Service horses

Not gonna lie – about a month ago when I heard that TriMet would be changing its service animal policy to state that only dogs could be classified as service animals, I wondered about service horses. After all, they’re allowed in the Apple store, so why not a MAX train?

Despite the fact that I don’t think anyone in the Portland area even has a service horse – and if they do, I’ve never spotted them on a bus or train – the news is making it sound like if TriMet allows service horses on board, your afternoon rush hour MAX will be overrun with tiny ponies (which, incidentally, would be awesome.)

A horse as a service animal is rare, but it’s not news – here’s an article from 2003 about a service horse on an airplane. What’s also not news is that under what had been TriMet’s service animal policy, people already could bring miniature horses onboard TriMet buses and trains. All an operator could ask is “Is that a service animal?” (not even getting into the other question permitted by the ADA, which is “What service is the animal trained to provide?”) If the person with the animal says “yes”, there’s not really anything the operator can do unless the animal is out of control. This policy has led to problems, like when a man got on a bus and claimed his Rottweiler mix was a service dog (it wasn’t), and it killed a service dog that was already on the bus. And it also meant people were bringing on their “service ferrets” or “service chickens”, so I imagine if someone had a pet miniature horse and tried to bring it on a bus saying it was a service horse, they could’ve done it.

Picture found online – photographer Jordan Richardson

Personally if I were operating a train and saw someone with a harnessed miniature horse waiting to board at a platform, I’d assume they had some sort of disability and just put out the bridgeplates for them – ditto for a person with a guide dog, a person with a white cane, a person with a wheelchair, etc. I actually think I’d more readily assume that a miniature horse is a service animal than some of the dogs I’ve seen people passing off as service dogs. I don’t know, I guess I don’t see why the idea of a service horse is such a big deal.


8 responses to “Service horses

  1. Yep, I agree! It would be awesome to have a service horse on my bus – di you also read that these animals now have to have a permission from TriMet to use our system? I think that should be a MUST even for “service” dogs. I bet a good 50 % of the dogs I have on my bus are NOT real service animals. It is a disgrace to those whose dogs really ARE their much needed service animals.

    Great article about a very important topic. :-)

    • I have to be honest, the backlash to this is really surprising me – people insisting that this will be abused by people wanting to bring their pet horses on the train. Who around here even has pet mini horses? The opinion poll on KGW (“Should mini-horses be allowed on TriMet buses & trains if they are guide animals?”) is pretty offensive too – why are we putting up the mobility of people with disabilities to a public opinion poll?

  2. To be clear, this is simply TriMet changing its rules to match upcoming changes to the ADA; so it doesn’t really matter what the public thinks. TriMet will do what it must to comply with the ADA; and that includes defining miniature horses and dogs as being the only possible species of service animals.

    BTW: In the case of the rottweiler, I doubt either animal was actually a service animal. The lap dog most likely was a therapy animal, which is not covered by the ADA.

    • it doesn’t really matter what the public thinks

      Right – the law is what the law is, but the public opinion poll asking if a guide horse should be allowed just kind of made me wince, the same way it’d make me wince if there was a poll asking if people in wheelchairs should be allowed on TriMet.

      The Rottweiler was not a service dog (the owner admitted he lied to the operator). As far as I know the lap dog was a comfort/companion animal, which fell under TriMet’s “service animal” definition if not the ADA definition.

  3. Yes – totally agree.

  4. As usual, your coverage and thoughts on the issue are right on. Thanks for not feeding the frenzy overcthe issue. The fact is we’ve never seen a service miniature horse in Portland. Where they are more common, they are still relatively rare.

    Also, any person wanting to bring a service miniature horse on the system will need to go through an assessment and the approved by the general manager. they will send be issued a sticker much like the alternative mobility device program.

    Josh Collins
    TriMet Operations

  5. Hah! This is pretty darn cool! So yeah, no big deal. Except now I’m gonna take all 165 of my Service Horses and ride a bus. :P

  6. Jordan Richardson

    Hey I shot that photo of the big dog on the Max.. that was a funny day.

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