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Illinois Senate: Miniature Horses Are Acceptable Service Animals

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John Martinez, left, and Barbara Gray sit on a bench as a miniature horse grazes at the Silverado Senior Living Center Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Encinitas, Calif. At the senior center, residents are encouraged to bring their pets. Everything from miniature horses to chinchillas can be found on the grounds, and residents benefit from frequent contact with the pets. | AP

For Illinoisans who would benefit from a service animal that aren't too keen on dogs, the state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that adds a new alternative option: miniature horses.

The Illinois Senate voted 40-11 in favor of HB3826, which includes a provision defining service animals as "a dog or miniature horse trained or being trained as a hearing animal, a guide animal, an assistance animal, a seizure alert animal, a mobility animal, a psychiatric service animal, an autism service animal, or an animal trained for any other physical, mental, or intellectual disability."

The measure would require schools to allow children with disabilities to bring service miniature horses to school functions -- both outdoors and indoors, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Current state laws require businesses and other public places to allow trained guide dogs reasonable access, the Associated Press reports.

While the bill's sponsor, Sen. Dave Koehler (46th) says the bill will make the state more accommodating of people with disabilities, Sen. Dave Syverson (34th), who voted against the measure, told WBEZ he thinks miniature horses would be problematic in schools.

“Children have a hard enough time concentrating, and if you’re gonna be bringing a miniature horse in the classrooms that’s clearly gonna become a disruptive event for the students,” he told the station.

The bill will head to the Illinois House next for approval. Miniature horses are already approved for service use by federal law, but state law does not specifically grant them access to schools and businesses. HB3826 would amend the law's language from the Guide Dog Access Act to the Service Animal Access Act and specifically include miniature horses under its provisions.

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