Now you have to leave your horse at home when you fly

Service dogs aid many people, not just those with sight deficiencies, and as such are allowed into many areas that do not allow animals. But recently there has been an increase in the numbers of people who say they need the presence of emotional support animals that are not service dogs to overcome their anxieties, such as when they fly. This has resulted in airlines being faced with having to make ad hoc decisions as to whether to allow them or not.

Now it appears that they have decided to draw the line. I was surprised to read the variety of animals involved.

US airlines will no longer be required to transport emotional support animals after passengers insisted on bringing on board their horses, pigs, peacocks and turkeys for psychological reasons.

Wednesday’s rule change by the US Department of Transportation now says only dogs qualify as service animals.

The agency said unusual animals on flights had “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals”.

Airlines say the old policy had been abused and was dangerous.

Previously, the federal government had no law regarding emotional support animals, which effectively required airlines to accommodate them as service animals despite complaints from passengers. Unlike pets, they were allowed to travel for free under the law known as the Air Carrier Access Act.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to have been trained to perform a specific task. There have been several incidents of unruly animals causing injuries to passengers and flights crews. Some of those incidents have led to lawsuits.

Wait, horses? Where do they sit? Can they even walk down those narrow aisles? Even that turkey peacock above would create a challenge.

Expect a flurry of lawsuits.


  1. DonDueed says

    Uh, Mano? That ain’t no turkey.

    Darn, I guess I’ll have to find a sitter for my support penguin next time I fly.

  2. kestrel says

    LOL. Perhaps Mano was referring to one of the people as a “turkey”.

    In regards to the horse question: generally speaking, they are talking about miniature horses, some of which have been trained to do certain tasks to assist a person, and are also used in therapy. These horses can be really tiny, less than 30″ tall and weighing only about 150 or so. They even have small rubber tennis shoes that fit the little horses so they don’t slip on the floors at nursing homes and so on. It’s quite controversial to some, because horses are prey animals, whereas dogs are predators, so the argument is that the horses will tend to flee perceived danger, thereby endangering their human, whereas the dogs will not have that instinct.

    In regards to dogs as service animals, I’m allergic to dogs -- and I’m not the only person who is, either. Although I have no issue with well-trained dogs used to help a person, the idea that someone just wants to bring their pet with them and calls them an “emotional support animal” so they can do so, without training the dog first, is an issue for me as such dogs can be really unruly.

  3. Mano Singham says


    It looks like I’ve been thinking about the turkeys around my complex too much!

  4. Marja Erwin says

    I am allergic to dogs, so I have to keep my distance, especially in enclosed areas, when they’re friendly, or when they’re just friendgressive. So I keep my distance.

    Now a lot of dogs get aggressive, and a lot of dog owners insist that humans are never supposed to avoid dogs or try to escape because dogs will instinctively give chase. So I have to keep more distance, back away, and bolt when surprised.

    But I’ve sometimes been badly injured trying to back away, and sometimes had dog owners start running after me with their dogs as I try to run away.

    I would be much more comfortable if people brought service ponies and emotional support snakes.

  5. Katydid says

    I think the bigger question is “what are the limits of what people allowed to inflict on other people in public?”

    A few years back, I worked with someone who had a seeing-eye dog. The dog was trained and certified, and I can’t remember it was ever a problem for anyone. The dog left us alone, we left the dog alone. It made the person who had it less dependent on the rest of us for assistance.

    I can’t imagine an emotional support peacock or an emotional support snake being anything but a nuisance to the people around them. Kind of like claiming to have a random screaming baby as an “emotional support animal”.

  6. seachange says

    There is an uglier underside to this. Pets are not treated as different from any cow or chicken. Endangered or trained animals are not treated as different from any cow or chicken. They are livestock and are legally treated as both cargo and property.

    If the airline kills or maims your pet by keeping it at subfreezing temperatures, leaving it on the hot tarmac for days without food or water, chucking the cage around as if it was a box of clothes, or leaving it unsecured their actual liability is pretty small compared to the cost of transporting the animal. So they don’t care much.

  7. Mano Singham says


    Don’t service dogs do the same thing? I seem to recall a faculty colleague who had a service dog who would be able to detect when she in danger od something that I think was low blood sugar.

  8. Jazzlet says

    Mano dogs can do the same thing, but most service dogs come from the bigger breeds so their life expectancy is around twelve not fifteen years, plus they can’t work into old age, so with a two year training at the start you are left with a working life of maybe eight years if you are lucky. For the person requiring a service animal that means hoping they will be assigned another dog, then retraining with the new dog every seven or eight years against doing so a couple of times in their life if they are unlucky with a horse. It does sound crazy at first, but if you look into it there are good reasons why some organisaations now train service horses as well as service dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *