6 of the Most Unusual Service Animals

Dec 13, 2010
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The public long has become accustomed to guide dogs for those with visual impairments, first used in 1929. But when the use of dogs for other types of help — such as alerting people with hearing impairments to sounds, pulling wheelchairs and helping with mobility issues — became common after enactment of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, controversy over access came with it.

The controversy intensified as other species entered the service-animal ring, and as “emotional-support animals,” those designated to help someone suffering from some form of psychiatric disability, have become common. Courts and human-rights commissions from East Coast to West Coast have dealt with access complaints pertaining to a service iguana, ferrets, a duck, goats and miniature horses, to name a few. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides a guideline that leaves open a circus of interpretations. Here we highlight some of the most unusual types of service animals used to assist people with disabilities in a variety of ways.


You don’t often hear about ferrets in the news. Even rarer yet is a story about ferrets helping those with disabilities. Ferrets are typically used as service animals to help alert their owners of the onset of a seizure. The ADA defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.”

Boa Constrictors

Daniel Greene says his almost 5-foot boa constrictor is a service snake. The reptile, who rides around town on Greene’s neck, helps alert the 46-year-old Washington man to impending seizures by squeezing him more tightly when he’s about to have one, Greene tells the Seattle Times. This gives him time to take his anti-seizure medication or look for a safer place to have a seizure, if he can’t prevent it. These snakes are also said to help patients with other disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder.


Jim Eggers, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, accidentally discovered that his parrot can help him calm down and avoid destructive behavior. Sensing that her owner is on the verge of a psychotic episode, Sadie talks him down with, “It’s OK, Jim. Calm down, Jim. You’re all right, Jim. I’m here, Jim.” He carries her around at all times in a backpack carefully fitted to hold her cage.

Miniature Horses

You’ve heard of seeing-eye dogs, right? How about a horse? Miniature horses are being used as guides for those with visual impairments, help animals for the mobility impaired, and therapy animals in nursing homes, hospitals, and children’s centers. Ann Edie, who has a visual impairment uses a guide miniature horse named Panda. Edie isn’t the only person who uses a guide horse instead of a dog — there’s actually a Guide Horse Foundation that’s been around nearly a decade. The obvious question is, Why? In fact, Edie says, there are many reasons: miniature horses are mild-mannered, trainable and less threatening than large dogs. They’re naturally cautious and have exceptional vision, with eyes set far apart for nearly 360-degree range. Plus, they’re herd animals, so they instinctively synchronize their movements with others. But the biggest reason is age: miniature horses can live and work for more than 30 years. In that time, a person needing a service animal typically goes through five to seven guide dogs. That can be draining both emotionally and economically, because each one can cost up to $60,000 to breed, train and place in a home.


Pigs, pot-bellied pigs in particular, can be trained to perform many of the functions that an assistance dog would. They can perform tasks for their owners that the individual may have difficulty doing.

Capuchin Monkeys

Capuchin monkeys are trained to assist with grasping of items and performing manual tasks such as opening door, fetching items and the like. Read more about Capuchin Monkeys as service animals here.

Service animals are an important part in the lives of many individuals and they serve  as both assistants and companions. Guidelines as to what exactly is considered a service animal is very open to interpretation, therefore guidelines as far as access to public areas seems to become confusing. To read more about the ADA, service animals and access see here.






Author: Jennifer Green

  • http://friendsite.com/nerojohn91 Kathleen Edmondson

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  • Guest

     Hate to say this but the DOJ changes are wrong and need only to be fixed in a way that made more sense.
    Consider there are more then enough laws forbidding Service Animals all all kinds including DOGS!
    The DOJ did what it did without much though or brains involved.
     Not matter what you say SOME unusual Animals are sometimes BETTER then the Normal for reasons nobody takes time out to examine.
     Just you CANNOT figure something out makes it wrong?
     Sorry the answer is NO.
     People who ask questions and seek info may learn that the world alot bigger then we know and those NON K9s may be more use to use then we know.

  • timothy sais

    Wow you are really into this website… that is awsome, to find someone like myself so interested. Take care. T.Sais

  • Cristina

    Hello My name is Cris, and I’m disabled, I suffer from chronic pain and restricted mobility.
    I have four ducks that make me very happy, and they make me get up every day to take care of them, I have told my Dr. that if it wasn’t for them I would be in bed all day, the pain is too much.
    Now I have I very bad neighbor that keeps on complaining about the ducks, she makes trouble for the hole neighborhood, but now the town wants to take them away from me and bring me to court, want can I do to keep them, if they go I don’t know If can deal

  • bobl07

    Thank you for your comments. I will send you information. Thanks, Bob

  • nahka

    i like this website it has interesting news

  • Kathleen Imhoff

    hello, my name is kathleen. I am disabled, I suffer from an digestive prognosis and also borderline bipolar, anxiety attacks. I also have 6 ducks all female. My doctors says I need the ducks for the provision of daily food nutrition from duck eggs. my tolerance to chicken eggs make me sick where duck eggs do not. building and zoning and Code enforcement says I am not allowed the ducks but I can have 6 chickens whats the difference? they are recommending that I get a Dr. letter to this fact and also an attorney who an provide them a letter stating that there is a federal and state law that over rides the county laws. I cannot afford an attorney. The dr. letter should not be a problem for me to get. The taking care of the ducks also helps me out with my depression since I have not had duck eggs as of recently I am now very sick to the stomach is there any way you can help. I live in Ocala, Florida, Marion county. Now building and zoning says have to get a special need permit which could cost me my whole check I get from disability and loose my house and my truck

  • bobl07

    Thank you for your comments.

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  • Disney Fan #1

    Yay I love ferrets!!!

  • bobl07

    Thank you for your comments.

  • Angel Pheonix

    try legal aid they might be willing to go out of their way to for such an unusual case. We had ducks and a 6 foot fence and our neighbors ratted us out. We loved our ducks. Rory the male would turn on the tv and sit on his favorite spot on the couch, my spot:) we raised them indoors. We had to get rid of them broke my daughters little hearts. Good luck

  • bobl07

    Thanks for your comments

  • Alexis Keef

    I have raised ducks for 5 years back in New England. I have moved to CA two years ago. I donate time at a wildlife rescue where recently acquired A black female Runner duck. I have a mental disability Chronic depression and PTSD with chronic pain. She gives me reason to get out of bed every day. She gives me purpose, makes me feel good. I could put a diaper harness on here and she could be with me every where and help me while in public. I saw a report on the news about some one else who has a legal service duck. I am trying to sort this out.

  • Katiew818

    I half to leave

  • Katiew818


  • Katiew818

    “Mom can you get me something to drink” “yes I can baby coke or sprite” “coke please” “ok”

  • Katie

    I love ❤️ you katiew818

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  • Roger Smith

    ESAs are not required to have any kind of specialized training or experience. Moreover, Emotional Support Animal Letters isn’t limited to just companion dogs. People have used emotional support cats, horses as Emotional Support Animals.

  • Bob

    fuck you katie

  • Rosewolf

    Ada list thats to be a service animal it must be a DOG no other animals. The other animals are not allowed to be called service animals.https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm