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Why Washington’s new service animal law allows miniature horses

(AP)

The new year brought a handful of new laws into practice in Washington state, including one that tightened restrictions on service animals. What exactly do those new restrictions entail? Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna stopped by Seattle’s Morning News to clarify.

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“Now, you can be penalized for misrepresenting an animal as a service animal,” McKenna said.

More than that, an emotional support animal no longer qualifies as a service animal. Service animals will be limited to two species: Dogs and interestingly enough, miniature horses.

According to the Guide Horse Foundation, miniature horses have longer lifespans, are more cost effective to train, are extremely calm by nature, possess a “phenomenal” memory, and have excellent vision.

Under the new law, restaurants and other public places now need to accommodate miniature horses, as well as guide dogs.

“It requires places of public accommodation to make reasonable modifications for the use of a miniature horse,” McKenna said. “It’s fascinating actually, these are special animals.”

In recent years, there has been confusion, especially at airports, regarding the kinds of animals can be allowed on flights. With this new law, the hope is to eliminate that confusion.

“Clearly, what the Legislature saw here in unanimously adopting this law in the House, is that people with real disabilities were running into problems, because there was confusion between what’s a disability and service animal, and what’s a pet someone portrays as a service animal,” McKenna said.

If it’s unclear that a dog or horse is performing a service for an owner’s disability, the new law allows restaurant managers and business owners to ask two specific questions.

“They can ask if the animal is required because of a disability — but not what the disability is — and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform,”  McKenna said. “If the answer is ‘it’s an emotional support animal,’ it doesn’t qualify.”

In recent years, travelers have tried getting turkeys, a kangaroo, a pig, a duck, and even a monkey aboard flights, arguing that they were emotional support animals. In Washington, at least, those days are presumably over.

“This is a much-needed correction — it’s pretty obvious to anyone that flies that people have been pushing the envelope a little bit in some cases. If you see a peacock walking down the hallway at the airport, you got to believe it’s not a service animal, really,” McKenna explained.

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