You may have heard that the concept of bringing various pets aboard flights for emotional support has gotten a little out of control lately, prompting some airlines like American and Delta to crack down recently.
It's becoming more and more difficult to bring that beloved peacock, snake, sugar glider or goat into economy class.
Not so for your miniature horse, however.
JetBlue has just joined American Airlines, United and other carriers that specifically allow the boarding of trained miniature horses, which you may be surprised to learn can be quite cuddly and comforting.
More importantly, they can also be housebroken.
We're not talking about ponies here like you might see a small child riding. Miniature horses are very mini, indeed. In fact, the Guide Horse Foundation, which provides trained miniature horses for the blind, requires the animals stand no more than 26 inches high at the back of their shoulder blades.
The U.S. Department of Justice Disability Rights Section has also recognized Miniature Horses. As of 2011, here's the official word on where the hooved helpers fit in under the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations:
"Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The regulations set out four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility. The assessment factors are (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner's control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse's type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse's presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility."
Notably, the same regulations to do not recognize cats as service animals. Just trained mini horses and dogs.
So the federal government is very much behind the idea of tiny horses as helping animals. However, there's more to consider because another law, the Air Carrier Access Act, allows airlines pretty broad latitude in which animals it can allow or prevent from boarding.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines may exclude animals that:
- Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin;
- Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
- Cause a significant disruption of cabin service; or
- Are prohibited from entering a foreign country.
The DOT also specifically notes that "Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders."
So if you need an emotional support animal, your best bet may actually be a miniature horse, which is arguably less likely to be disruptive than a dog. But let's be honest, if any horse or dog is well behaved, it's likely to be an awesome animal.
My two cents on the whole thing: if it's possible at all for you to fly without a support animal, you should ditch your furry friend, as it's estimated that 15 percent of the population is allergic to cats and dogs. That means the odds that someone on your flight is going to be disrupted by an animal's presence is highly likely.
Nonetheless, JetBlue will begin officially allowing dogs, cats and miniature horses in its cabins as emotional support animals beginning July 1. The airline requires passengers to give it 48 hours advance notice and provide documentation from both a doctor prescribing the animal and a veterinarian vouching for the animal's "fitness to fly."
No matter what you do, flying is likely to be a zoo.