A blind Muslim woman whose family objected to having a guide dog in the house is to get a guide horse instead.
Mona Ramouni with her guide horse, Cali. Photo: AP
Mona Ramouni, 28, lost her sight shortly after birth, and has had to rely on her family members to guide her around the Detroit suburb where they live.
She has long yearned for more independence, but a traditional guide dog was never an option. Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and Miss Ramouni, an observant Sunni, respects her Jordanian-born parents' aversion to having a dog in the family home, where she lives along with three of her six siblings.
Now Mexicali Rose, a 3-year-old former show horse that stands about 2 1/2 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds, has arrived to help Miss Ramouni.
Before the horse, nicknamed Cali, arrived, "I had basically given up. I mean, I had been to the point where I thought, 'I'm going to get nothing out of my life,"' Miss Ramouni told the Associated Press. "And having Cali ... showed me that I had forgotten about all the optimism I had as a kid. When I was a kid, I thought I could do anything. I thought everything was possible."
While many Muslims believe dogs can violate ritual purity, horses are seen as "regal animals," Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation's Michigan chapter, told the news agency.
Still, "there would be concerns about bringing a horse into certain establishments and areas of worship as well," he said.
The horses can live into their 30s, more than twice as long as most dogs, she said.
The horse, who has been trained to get in and out of vehicles, guide through crowds and stand still indoors, is expected to take up residence in a newly erected shed on the family's lawn within the next two months.
But as Miss Ramouni hails the new opportunities available to her with a guide horse, the US government has given warning that it may soon tighten the definition of a guide animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to exclude farm creatures such as horses.
Regulatory language that would limit guide status to dogs and other common domestic animals was proposed last year, but was postponed along with other new federal rules when President Barack Obama took office in January.
The new ADA regulations are under review and final language will be issued later this year, according to Alejandro Miyar, a justice department spokesman.