The uptick in airline passengers boarding whatever creature they deem desirable onto flights has some plane cabins feeling more like Noah’s Ark than a space for human travel.
In an attempt to clarify the grey areas surrounding what service animal a passenger may or may not bring on board a flight, the U.S. Department of Transportation has formally listed three species that have been cleared for travel: dogs, cats and miniature horses.
The clearance comes with the caveat that the animal is indeed a trained service animal, meaning the animal has been formally trained to remain calm and well behaved in crowded, loud, public spaces, like a plane cabin, for example.
“With respect to animal species, we indicated that we would focus our enforcement efforts on ensuring that the most commonly used service animals (dogs, cats, and miniature horses) are accepted for transport as service animals,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a written statement.
The decision comes after a lengthy debate over how to regulate service animals on flights, ensuring that people with disabilities are able to bring their working service animal onboard.
At the same time, airlines need ways to deter people from bringing their untrained, poorly behaved and unqualified emotional support animals onboard flights.
Airline employees are permitted to ask for proof that an animal is indeed a legitimate service animal, beyond the vest or harness that an animal may wear, articles that are pretty easy to fake.
“As for proof that an animal is a service animal, we stated that if a passenger’s status as an individual with a disability is not clear, then an airline may ask about the passenger’s need for a service animal and need not rely solely on paraphernalia such as an identification card, a harness, or a tag,” the statement continued.
While mini horses are the least commonly seen of the three allowable animals to fly, a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants told the New York Post that the little guys (or gals) have been spotted on board.
“Yes, there have been flights with service miniature horses, though it’s not very common,” the spokesperson told The Post. “Passengers are normally accommodated in a bulkhead row to allow for some extra room.”
As with cats and dogs, the miniature horse must be a documented service animal.
Airlines can turn away non-service animals at their discretion, such as snakes, other reptiles, rodents and spiders.
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