Service dogs, and in some cases miniature horses, may be welcome in national parks, even when other animals are not.
That’s according to a National Park Service proposal to update regulations regarding service animals.
Officials are seeking public comment through June 17 on the proposed regulations.
The National Park Service “protects park resources and visitors by regulating pets and other domestic animals within park areas,” the agency says.
While service animals are allowed in parks now, the regulations have not been updated in some time. Officials said the agency proposed changes to provide “the broadest possible” accessibility to those with disabilities.
The regulations would define a service animal as a dog or a miniature horse trained to perform tasks directly related to a person’s disability.
A dog used solely for comfort or emotional support would not be considered a service animal and would be subject to regulations governing pets, the proposed rule states.
Other species also would not be considered service animals.
The proposed rule gives park officials authority to require proof of vaccination against diseases that can be transmitted from service animals to wildlife.
The National Park Service and other federal agencies have had some provisions for service animals since the 1960s. But over the years, the definition of a service animal has changed.
At times, a broader definition was used. Some national parks got requests from people for everything from reptiles to primates, the agency reported.
Park officials, however, had the authority to close an area to service animals if the animals posed a threat to people or wildlife.
Regulations now under consideration would allow park superintendents to allow the use of miniature horses trained to help people with disabilities. Miniature horses, which can be around the same size as dogs, are an alternative for some people, such as those with allergies, the agency said.