What about that pony on the bus?
Lincoln City Councilman Roy Christensen asked the question of StarTran manager Mike Davis during a recent pre-council meeting.
Yes, there was a pony — or perhaps it was a miniature horse — on a city bus during shuttles to Boo at the Zoo at Halloween time, Davis replied.
It was someone's therapy horse.
While dogs are most people's therapy animal of choice, federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards also allow miniature horses to be used as service animals, as long as they are no more than 34 inches tall.
Those rules require state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit groups that serve the public to allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of a facility where the public is normally allowed to go.
And bus drivers may only ask two questions before deciding whether to allow an animal on board: Is the dog (or horse in this case) a service animal required because of a disability? And what work or task has the dog (or horse) been trained to perform?
There are no licenses or permits to check. Just the two questions.
The driver in this case called StarTran dispatch, followed instructions and asked the two questions, Davis said. It's unlikely he had a yardstick to measure the horse's height.
StarTran's dispatch report doesn't say how the owner described the horse's job. But it passed muster with the driver.
The horse, which was on a lead, was allowed on the bus.
Other animals are allowed on Lincoln city buses as long as they are in carriers, Davis said. So you can take your cat, in a pet carrier, to the veterinarian.
Christensen said the first complaint he received about a miniature horse on the bus came from another rider, who said people didn't want to get on the bus with it. The councilman later talked with the driver, who wondered why the state or city didn't exclude large animals.
"You would think there would be some certification, either state or nationally," Christensen said.
But there isn't.
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Beutler not a running mate
The political class was all atwitter Monday about Mayor Chris Beutler having a news conference with state Sen. Bob Krist, a gubernatorial candidate.
No, the mayor isn't a candidate for lieutenant governor.
Beutler, a veteran Democrat who endorsed Krist on Tuesday, does lend the former Republican some instant credibility among Democratic voters. However, anyone who knows Beutler well could quickly dismiss him as a possible running mate.
He has been mayor — a hands-on, active leader of the city government machine — for 10 years. He likes to manage things. He would not enjoy the very second-fiddle job as the state's lieutenant governor.
New name for city building
The building near 33rd and O streets that has been home to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, and also now houses the city Parks and Recreation Department, has a new address and a new name.
Woods Park Place is the new name, broad and unspecific enough to encompass both health and parks and recreation.
The new address is 3131 O St., rather than 3140 N St.
The original Health Department Building faced N Street, thus the N Street address.
When a three-story wing was added a decade ago, the front door to the building moved to the O Street side, but the address did not change, said J.J. Yost, with Parks and Recreation.
If you type that N Street address into a GPS device, it takes you to the back door of the building, which can be confusing.
The Health Department building had been built to accommodate future expansion. And Parks and Recreation staffers moved into the empty third floor of the building last year after their building was sold for the Lincoln Children's Zoo expansion.
City staff expect to get new signs listing the building’s two major occupants this spring or summer.
Retired city Health Director Judy Halstead used to joke, privately, that the health department building, with its extra space, was the home for orphan agencies.
Public Safety Director Tom Casady and Lancaster County General Assistance also have offices in the building.