Miniature horses approved by Department of Transportation as service animals on commercial flights

The U.S. Department of Transportation released updated guidelines on service animals last week, which included miniature horses among the pets disabled travelers may now bring on commercial flights.

The tiny equines join the ranks of dogs and cats as the only federally accepted service species for transport.

Although rare, miniature horses are not unheard of as travel companions. 

"Yes, there have been flights with service miniature horses, though it's not very common," a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants told the New York Post. "Passengers are normally accommodated in a bulkhead row to allow for some extra room."

Though the new ruling does not legally require airlines to allow therapy miniature horses on flights, it does mean companies that ignore the mandate may face penalties. The DOT also clarified that no other animals are protected under the new guidelines. 

"Airlines will not be subject to enforcement action if they continue to deny transport to snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders," the agency said. "However, airlines will remain subject to potential enforcement action if they categorically refuse to transport other animals."

In January 2018, United Airlines made headlines for refusing to allow a woman to travel with her emotional support peacock. The story sparked debate over what types of animals should be allowed aboard commercial planes, as well as suggestions that some passengers might be abusing the system.

Similarly, in October of the same year, a woman was removed from a Frontier Airlines flight while traveling with her "emotional support" squirrel, due to an unfortunate miscommunication between the passenger and the company.

Some airlines now require doctor's notes from passengers traveling with comfort animals, along with advanced notification and the animal's vaccination records.

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