BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Guide dogs and miniature horses are now allowed at all Baltimore City Public Schools after the school board approved a new policy to recognize both dogs and mini horses as service animals at all of their facilities.
For years, people have been using miniature horses as therapy animals, and because they tend to live longer than dogs and are easily trained, it was only a matter of time before they officially were recognized as guide horses.
Known for their gentle nature and desire to please, miniature horses possess the ideal qualities for a service animal.
They are now allowed to accompany students, employees, and visitors with a disability at all Baltimore City public schools and facilities.
“Surprised it’s taken this long for it to take off,” said Debra Hopkins, with Hopkins Heavensent Miniatures. “I think people think about horses in a very different way than they think about dogs, and that’s why it’s taken a little bit of time.”
Hopkins breeds and raises miniature horses on her farm in Cecil County.
She says these animals are highly capable of performing the skills of a traditional guide dog, but are more cost effective.
“A longer life span, so that training and time and energy you put into them will be put to good use for a lot longer,” Hopkins said.
Miniature horses tend to live about 35 years, compared to dogs, which only live about 10 to 15 years.
Recently, Hopkins has seen more interest in training these animals as guide horses.
“I’m just really excited more and more people are recognizing the use [and] ability of these horses,” she said.
The time to train a mini horse and cost of care is similar to a guide dog.
Miniature horses typically measure about 34 inches and weigh about 200 pounds.