OCALA, Fla. (WOGX FOX 51) - What would you do if you saw a horse walk into a restaurant? It happened in Ocala last week, raising some eyebrows. "Honey" is Jessica Wellman’s very sweet service horse.
“People always say ‘you don’t see that everyday,’ and I’m like ‘Well, I do,’” said Wellman, who lives in Ocala. “If my disease flares up, I could need her tomorrow.”
Wellman suffers from a degenerative autoimmune disease. She needs Honey to help her when she walks.
“She’ll brace for me to stand up. She’ll counterbalance when I’m walking to ground me and give me aid so I don’t feel like I’m going to fall over,” said Wellman.”
She prefers Honey to a service dog since horses are bigger and live longer. Employees at First Watch in Ocala were surprised to see Honey stroll up to the restaurant Friday, but Wellman says they handled it well.
“She asked very intelligent questions. They asked ‘Well is it a service animal or is it an ESA?’”
ESA means emotional support animal. But as a service animal, Honey was allowed in as service animals are allowed anywhere the general public can be. She was happy the restaurant understood. After all, Honey’s not here to horse around.
“People didn’t keep coming up to us throughout our meal, so we were able to enjoy the space and our food,” said Wellman.
A spokesperson for First Watch sent FOX 35 this statement:
"When asked if it was a service animal, and the woman confirmed that it was. We brought her to a table, where the horse could stand against the wall next to her. Of course our team was a bit surprised, as we’ve never had anyone bring a service miniature horse into one of our restaurants, but we always to do our best to accommodate customers who have legitimate service animals.
"ADA regulations allow for miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, where reasonable, to accompany the person to a business. The horse seemed to be in the owner’s control, to be housebroken, and not to propose any safety concerns for our other customers or staff in the restaurant."