PHOENIX - Try not to be too surprised if you find yourself sitting near a horse the next time you dine out.
Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Friday specifying what is considered a "service animal" in Arizona. As would be expected, that includes dogs. But it also includes miniature horses, meaning anything up to 36 inches at the shoulder and 100 pounds - presumably potty trained.
The measure updates existing state laws that cover service animals. The change actually could mean fewer animals - or at least fewer types of animals - sharing restaurants, movie theaters and restrooms.
Federal and state law require places of public accommodation to allow individuals to bring their service animals. But Arizona law does not currently define what constitutes a service animal. Horses have been included partly because that's what's required by federal law, and because they are stronger and more able to pull wheelchairs.
The new law also says individuals can no longer declare they need an animal solely for "comfort" or emotional support. Instead, there is a list of the kinds of work or tasks considered acceptable. These range from helping those with vision or hearing impairment, to pulling wheelchairs, retrieving items and alerting individuals to the presence of certain allergens.
The federal law, which still must be obeyed, says when a disability is not obvious a business owner may ask only two questions:
• Is the animal required because of a disability?
• What work or task is the animal trained to perform?
They cannot inquire about the person's disability or require medical documentation. The law allows a property owner to deny admission to a service animal if it is a "threat to the health or safety of others" or "poses an undue burden."