Digby, an American Miniature horse, is Britain's first ever guide horse! He was given as an assistance animal to BBC Journalist Mohammed Salim Patel who is visually impaired. He is afraid of dogs and so couldn't have a traditional guide animal, so Digby stepped up to the field and is being trained as a guide horse.
Digby's owner Katy Smith is campaigning for increased rights for those who are visually impaired and afraid of dogs and so rely on the horses as an alternative to guide dogs. Although In places such as the United States, guide horses are more common, Digby is believed to be the first in training to work as an assistance animal in the UK.
Ms Smith, from Northallerton Equestrian Centre (North Yorkshire), stated that she has been working with Rishi Sunak, her local MP, to improve the legal framework for horses which are used as guide or assistance animals. The first step is to persuade food hygiene agencies to allow Digby to go into cafes and restaurants wearing a device which means he does not leave excrement on the floor. She further stated:
"The wording of the legislation needs to be changed so dogs need to be taken out and animals put instead, so that will be one of the next steps we'll be aiming for, Once the environmental health people say they're happy with the underpants thing we'll be one step closer. Because it's the first, it's a question of going about it in the right way and getting people on our side andgetting people aware of the positiveness of what a miniature horse can bring to helping someone to live a normal life."
Equalities law says businesses must make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, which would include catering for assistance animals, but it is not yet clear whether a person refused access for a guide horse would have a case for discrimination.
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: "While we have not come across a guide horse before, assistance animals help disabled people with activities that many people take for granted every day.
"Food business owners should take this into account when considering whether to permit access of assistance animals into their premises."