In a day and age where service animals come in all types, forms, and species, this one is admittedly a little outside the norm.
Last week, the US Department of Transportation updated their current guidelines for what is considered a service animal. The released list now includes miniature horses amongst those service animals disabled individuals are legally permitted to bring onboard commercial airline flights.
The tiny horses will be joining to ranks of both dogs, and cats, as the current species accepted by federal law. What really makes this amazing is that, even though it is rare, miniature horses are actually quite popular as travel companions. In a quote to the New York Post, a spokesperson for the Associate of Flight Attendants stated:
“Yes, there have been flights with service miniature horses, though it’s not very common.”
She went on to say that when a passenger does board with their therapy miniature horse travel companion, they are typically seated in a bulkhead row, as to allow the necessary extra room.
It is worth mentioning the airlines have a little legal leeway in the new ruling. Although airlines are not required to allow the unusual flight companions on board, they may still face penalties if they choose to take the route of ignoring the mandate.
At this time, the DOT wanted to make sure that it is known that there are no other animals currently protected under these new guidelines. A spokesman for the agency clarified:
“Airlines are not subject to enforcement action if they continue to deny transport to snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders. However, airlines will remain subject to potential enforcement action of they categorically refuse to transport other animals.”
In an attempt to remain in compliance with the new guidelines, as well as making sure that the companion animal is classified for therapy use, many airlines are now requiring a doctor’s note from anyone traveling with what they are terming a comfort animal.