Southwest Airlines to Allow Miniature Horses Onboard Flights

In a headline designed to raise eyebrows, The Sun reported you can now fly Southwest Airlines with your miniature horse. The directive appears to be connected to the Southwest support animals rule and an American’s With Disabilities Act classification. So now, if your tiny pony is classified as a service animal, they will, under certain conditions be allowed to fly with you in-cabin.

New rules to allow miniature support horse on plane

Recent stories of passengers trying, unsuccessfully, to board flights with animals, has thrown light on a very divisive subject. Do you need a peacock next to you or a hamster in your pocket to feel safe?

Traditionally, service animals meant guide dogs. However, some people don’t want to work with dogs. In addition, many pet owners, who feel very close to their dogs, decide to try to reclassify the animal as a service dog to gain access to planes and restaurants. It’s an issue, which is eroding trust in the service animal program and airlines are also struggling to keep all passengers happy.

Southwest support animals – new rules

As a result, Delta and Alaskan Airlines have both re-clarified their rules concerning service animals in-cabin. This has helped avoid disruptions at the airport. But when Southwest Airline recently announced they would now allow miniature horses in the cabin – well, no one saw that coming.

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It may surprise you to learn, the Americans With Disabilities Act only recognizes two types of animals as possible service animals – dogs and horses. The real name for a miniature support horse is a “guide horse” and they are an alternative mobility option for blind people who do not wish to use a guide dog. This wording is quite important, as guide horses are not emotional support animals – they are only service animals.

Service animal verses emotional support animal

Even though many airlines recognize cats as emotional support animals, the law does not recognize them as service animals. This makes a difference. New rules allowing miniature horses on planes refer only to service animals. However, in some instances this may include animals which are traditionally considered ‘emotional support animals’. Those living with serious psychiatric or anxiety issues, including veterans with PTSD, would be able to use a horse as an emotional support animal.

The AWDA also says service animals must be specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Not to put to fine a point on it, you can’t train a peacock or a hamster to open doors. The same goes for cats.

Service animals – trained and under control

With this in mind, the support horse Southwest story doesn’t seem quite so outlandish. It does have a couple of sensible rules to add to the AWDA regulations too. The company reported, “service animals must be trained to behave in a public setting and must be under the control of the handler at all times.” In accordance with the AWDA, they must be under 86 centimeters (34 inches) tall and 99 pounds. Okay – basically just a big dog.

Service animal users will also need to present a letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional fully explaining the requirement. The traveller will also have to inform the airline in advance. The miniature horse allowance will begin on Sept. 17.


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