Thursday, March 29, 2012

Federal regulations require horses into restaurants

Business owners are concerned about a new federal regulation requiring a particular breed of horse to be allowed into restaurants across the country. 
The Justice Department regulations allow "service" horses (miniature horses) just like service dogs, to accompany the blind and others with disabilities in order to assist them.

As a result, a lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Los Angeles, by a man and his horse, who uses a wheelchair and  and who claims a local GameStop and Marshalls refused him and his horse service. 

The case, as well as the regulation, has caused concern from  one lawmaker, as well as the National Restaurant Association. 
"I like horses. My daughter likes horses. But even in the Wild West, they put them outside," said Angelo Amador, vice president of the restaurant association. 

The organization has some valid arguments.
First, many business owners just don't know about the rule, and are only familiar with dogs being a traditional service animal. Amador said those that do know have concerns the animals aren't housebroken. 
"You cannot train a horse ... housebreak them like you would do with a dog," he said. 
The owner could claim the horse is housebroken, but if doesn't turn out that way, the business has a sanitation problem to deal with.
"After the deed is done, you have a number of other issues in the restaurant," Amador said. "It's kind of like damned if you do, and damned if you don't." 
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, says the regulation is a case of Washington over reaching once again.
"Do we really need to saddle businesses with more regulation? I say, 'Naaayyy.' Every scenario in life does not need a rule or regulation," he said in a statement.
The regulations on service animals were first put out in September 2010, as part of the Americans With Disabilities Act. 
The rules, which went into effect later, actually narrowed down what used to be a broad definition for service animals. For most purposes, the Justice Department decided to recognize only dogs -- but the department added an exception for miniature horses after being convinced about the benefits to the disabled. 

The guidelines noted that the horses can be "viable alternatives" for people who are allergic to dogs or whose religious beliefs do not allow them to be around dogs. (really?)

Such is the case for Jose Estrada, the plaintiff in the case filed this month in Los Angeles court. 
His attorney said a dog "doesn't have the sufficient strength to pull him in his wheelchair." 
So Estrada, a paraplegic, uses a 29-inch-high miniature horse to pull him around.
According to the complaint, the two retail stores being sued refused to allow the horse inside along with Estrada.
The suit says Horse "is housebroken" and would not "compromise" the safety of those two stores. 

Estrada is suing for "no less than" $4,000 in damages. 
The federal rules state that businesses should allow in the horses as long as they're trained, considering such factors as the size of the horse, whether it's under control, whether it's "housebroken," and whether its presence would compromise "legitimate safety requirements."