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Illinois legislature approves mini horses as service animals

(Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images) Tonto, a mini horse who acts as a seeing eye dog and was one of three working guide horses in the United States in 2004.

(Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images) Tonto, a mini horse who acts as a seeing eye dog and was one of three working guide horses in the United States in 2004.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois lawmakers passed a bill allowing miniature horses to be used as service animals.

Under a measure the House sent to Ill. Gov. Quinn Thursday night – the evening members were supposed to consider a cost-saving pension bill – people with disabilities could use miniature horses as service animals in public places, much like guide dogs are used.

The vote was near-unanimous. The small horses, which stand no higher than 32 inches, would be allowed in schools, stores, restaurants, and other public places – anywhere an assistance dog can go.

“I have no concerns that we’re gonna see any stampede in grocery stores or anything like that,” Chicago’s WBEZ quoted sponsoring Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, as saying.  “This is an issue that pertains really to the disabled community, and it’s something that puts us in compliance to the federal law.”

An overhaul of future state pension benefits for retired public employees was the centerpiece of the spring legislative session, but it collapsed late Thursday just before the deadline to adjourn. Illinois government has underfunded pensions by tens of billions of dollars.