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Friday, April 1, 2011

Mini horses can now be used as guide animals after petition changes disability guidelines


Top of her class: Cali, one of five known guide horses in the U.S., with her owner Mona Ramouni at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan

People who require a service animal to assist with a disability usually use a guide dog, or in some cases a helper monkey.

But new federal guidelines will now permit the use of... miniature horses.

A petition sent to the Department of Justice, by owners and trainers of mobility horses, has prompted a change in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Mona Ramouni, 30, a blind woman who lives in East Lansing, Michigan, is the proud owner of a guide horse - called Cali.

On the bus: Miss Ramouni and Cali are regulars on the bus in Lincoln Park, Michigan. she admits Cali can be a handful sometimes

She ended up with her unusual helper after going blind shortly after birth. She could not have a traditional guide dog because her devout Muslim family considered dogs unclean animals.

Miss Ramouni said: 'As much work as she is - and she is a lot more work than a dog - I would not trade her for 10 dogs.

She attends classes at both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan with five-year-old Cali (short for Mexicali Rose), who is roughly the size of a large dog.

Emily Weiss, senior director of shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: 'You can train them to do some pretty amazing things.'

At home: Miss Ramouni chose a guide horse because her devout Muslim family considered dogs unclean. Cali is highly trained and house-broken

Miss Ramouni recalled Cali hesitating at a flight of stairs, but ultimately accepting Ramouni's urging to go.

She said: 'She trusted me enough to do it for me.'

Horses need more room than dogs and are more work for owners.

Drinks break: Mona and Cali take a couple of minutes out from class work for much-needed refreshments

Ms Weiss said dogs were fed and walked a couple of times a day, while horses ate hay and grass and produced waste throughout the day.

But minis can be house-trained.

Miss Ramouni and Ms Arste have kept a blog tracking Cali's career as a guide horse.

On March 17, Ms Ramouni wrote: 'Life is hard sometimes - complicated and full of challenges that we think we might not be able to handle. If Cali can try, if Cali can persevere, it is my duty, my privilege, to keep on keeping on as well, because I can't let my sweet girl down.'

source: dailymail


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