Disabled Equestrians Organization
231 Glenwood Ave
Woodside, Calif. 94062
April 7, 2012
Ms. Karen Taylor-Goodrich
National Park Service
I am responding to recent legal actions that are trying to limit access to the backcountry for Disabled Equestirans.
The Disabled Equestrians Organization (DEO) represents individuals that are moderately disabled and use a horse or mule as a service animal to provide them access to trails in the outdoors. The causes of their disabilities are varied, and include accidents, old age and disease. Some of the areas affected are knees, lungs, hearts, backs, ankles and eyesight. In spite of the diversity of aliments, they all share a common solution to their disabilities: they use a horse or mule as a service animal to carry their worn out bodies to the places that millions of Americans enjoy: the beautiful high country of the Sierras, the rolling hills of the California coast, the beautiful ocean beaches and many other public parks and forests.
The DEO is very concerned about Federal, State and Local agencies that are restricting, limiting or reducing the use of horses on the public lands they manage. There appears to be a concerted effort by some people who seem to think such restrictions are somehow good for the environment. We disagree with this conclusion, but the issue we are concerned about is far more important.
The Americans with
Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336 enacted July 26, 1990 and the Department
of Justice's regulation implementing title II, subtitle A, of the ADA prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and
activities provided to the public by Federal, State and local governments. A
disability as defined by
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and usable to physically disabled persons. This law forms the foundation of the legal mandate requiring Federally funded facilities and programs to be accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978 states "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by Federal financial assistance or by an Executive Agency." This Act further broadens the Architectural Barriers Act in that it requires program accessibility in all services provided with Federal dollars.
To impede the right of disabled equestrians to use their service animals to access the public parks and open space is a clearly a violation of Federal law and results in discrimination against disabled equestrians. It is essential that disabled equestrians have a place to park their trailer to unload their service animal and have assistance from their able bodied friends.
We do not want to see our funds and public funds spend on a lawsuit to enforce our rights. We would rather work with the public agencies to improve the trails, raise funds for outdoor programs, expand horse camps, and raise public awareness. You actions will determine if there is a need for legal action.
Thank you for your support for disabled equestrians and horse trails. Please keep me informed on your compliance with Federal and State laws.
Donald E. Pugh