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Disabled Girl Gets New Trial on Keeping Horse at Home

Updated on January 8, 2016

Lawsuit Seeks to Decide Whether Horses Can Be Service Animals

An Ohio city's ban on farm animals prompts a lawsuit by a disabled child's mother.
An Ohio city's ban on farm animals prompts a lawsuit by a disabled child's mother.

City's Ban on Farm Animals Crimps Disabled Child

A disabled teenager in Blue Ash, Ohio will get another day in court to try to keep a miniature horse at her mother’s urban home after a federal court ruled recently the girl might need it to help her mobility.

The Fair Housing Act that allows disabled residents to keep service animals that otherwise would be banned from their houses and apartments was a key part of the court ruling.

Farm animals, like horses, are banned from urban residences by a city ordinance. The city sought to force resident Ingrid Anderson to remove it from her property.

Anderson argued in a lawsuit the horse helped her daughter maintain her balance as she moved around the back yard. The 15-year-old suffers from seizures and chronic lung disease.

She said the horse should be excluded from the local ordinance because it was a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Anderson said she learned about equine therapy from a doctor who recommended the horse for her daughter. Anderson took classes on training the horse.

Blue Ash officials said the horse was a farm animal, not a service animal, which meant it was not protected under the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. They acted to remove the horse after complaints from neighbors about unsanitary conditions created by animals on the Andersons’ property.

The trial judge agreed and ordered the horse removed. Anderson appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial judge and ordered a new hearing.

The unanimous decision of the three-judge panel said protecting public health and property values is important but Anderson showed that one miniature horse at her house would not create unsanitary conditions. She also said she had hired someone to clean up any animal waste and to avoid unsanitary conditions.

The court remanded the case for another trial to determine whether the city discriminated against Anderson unfairly.

Although the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals operates in Ohio, its ruling based on federal law applies equally to the Washington area. The District of Columbia and suburban municipalities also ban farm animals.

The case is Anderson v. City of Blue Ash, 798 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2015)


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