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.
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.