Mom’s Fight for Miniature Horse Revived

     (CN) – An Ohio community must face claims that it pulled out all the stops to block a disabled girl from keeping a miniature service horse in her backyard, the Sixth Circuit ruled Friday.
     Ingrid Anderson’s daughter C.A. suffers from a number of disabilities that make it difficult for the girl to maintain her balance on her own.
     Finding that equine or hippotherapy proved beneficial to the girl, Anderson has kept one to two miniature horses in the backyard of their Cincinnati-area home since 2010.
     A miniature horse stands about 3 feet tall at the withers, and can live 25 to 35 years.
     The town of Blue Ash, a relatively wealthy community with a population of 12,000 in 2010, became involved amid complaints from Anderson’s neighbors about the smell.
     Though Anderson claimed that that the Americans with Disabilities Act entitled her to keep horses at her home, the Blue Ash City Council found that the horses “are clearly not service animals.”
     Anderson then specifically trained a horse named Ellie that she replaced her two previous horses with when the family moved to a new house. In addition to helping keep C.A. balanced, Ellie can help the child up when she falls.
     The council passed an ordinance in 2013 to prohibit keeping farm animals at residences within the city, and Anderson was criminally prosecuted and convicted for keeping Ellie at her home.
     Though Anderson brought a federal complaint for discrimination, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black granted Blue Ash summary judgment.
     While Ellie provides Anderson’s daughter with comfort and reassurance, it does not help her “overcome or deal with an ADA disability,” Black wrote. “The undisputed facts establish that the miniature horse is not a ‘service animal,'” he continued.
     The Sixth Circuit found Friday, however, that the issue is not so black and white.
     “We are not persuaded by, nor do we find any authority to support, the proposition that an animal must be needed in all aspects of daily life or outside the house to qualify for a reasonable modification under the ADA,” Judge R. Guy Cole wrote for the three-judge panel. “Anderson has produced evidence that Ellie is trained to assist C.A. with beneficial exercise in her backyard, and she is no less qualified for a reasonable modification under the ADA simply because C.A. does not need her horse’s assistance for all of her daily activities or when traveling.”
     Though Blue Ash presented evidence that the horse may pose a safety and health risk, Anderson also presented contrary evidence, such as letters of support from her current neighbors, the court found.
     Anderson has also hired a service to help her dispose of the horse waste, according to the ruling.
     “Anderson has produced evidence that it would be reasonable for her to keep Ellie at her residence and that all the requirements and assessment factors of the ADA regulations have been satisfied,” the Cincinnati-based panel found. “The city has produced conflicting evidence, such as health complaints, and draws a different conclusion from the record, but weighing the city’s evidence against the plaintiffs’ is inappropriate on summary judgment.”
     The court did affirm summary judgment for Blue Ash on Anderson’s intentional discrimination claims, noting that it got involved in the matter only after the woman’s original neighbors complained about the animals on her property.

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