You've probably heard that the rules concerning emotional support animals on airplanes are changing, after a few incidents including a hamster flushed down the toilet, a VIP turkey and a few dog bites. Now, all animals except for dogs, cats and miniature horses are banned from flying. Yep, you heard me right: miniature horses. If you're more interested in taking your doggo on board, check out this travel guide for your fur babies. But if you have equine inclinations, read on.
What Has Changed?
Recently, the US Department of Transportation released a document detailing the changes it had made to the laws regarding service and emotional support animals. This followed an increasing number of incidents including people trying to get ridiculous animals onto airplanes, injuries caused by emotional support animals, and a general confusion about which animals were allowed on board airplanes. Before anything serious happened, the US DOT decided that it was time to set things straight.
What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
The number of emotional support animals has risen unprecedentedly in the past few years. Perhaps this has something to do with society's newfound acceptance of mental health issues and their public discussion. Or maybe people rely on their animals more than anything else for emotional support. Whatever the reason, it seems like every second person has an emotional support animal these days.
We have to get one thing straight though. Emotional support animals are not the same as service dogs. Service dogs are trained specifically to help people who have physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities. They are trained to behave well in public and can also be life-saving in some instances. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are not trained at all and are chosen to be companion animals simply because of the comfort they provide to their owners.
Emotional support animals must be officially registered as an emotional support animal to be able to travel on airplanes. This licensing is only given to people who have a prescription from a qualified therapist stating that the patient would benefit from a comfort pet. Unfortunately, there are many fake websites that sell phony emotional support animal certificates to unsuspecting passengers. The result has been chaos - until now.
What Do The Laws Say Now?
In a final statement that the US DOT released on August 8th 2019 the following guidelines were outlined, effective immediately: the only animals allowed to fly on airplanes as emotional support animals are cats, dogs of any breed (including pitbulls, which have been prohibited until now) and - wait for it - miniature horses.
Now, maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but isn't it a little weird that of all the animals that are allowed to fly on airplanes, they choose horses? And yes, they are "miniature" horses, but they're still horses. So why on earth did they choose to allow miniature horses to fly on airplanes?
Why Miniature Horses?
Miniature horses actually make great service animals. According to the Miniature Horse Association, miniature horses are often between 2 and 3 feet tall and weigh between 150 and 250 pounds, so they're not that big after all. Additionally, horses are intelligent, recognize human emotions like dogs can, can be trained to stay very calm (think of those zen police horses amidst chaos), and are sometimes more accepted than service dogs.
You'd be surprised at the number of people who choose miniature horses as emotional support animals (like this guy). Another big plus is that horses live for much longer than dogs or cats (30 years is the average age), meaning that the special bond you have with them is going to last a lot longer.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of service animals is limited to dogs, although it has one exception: miniature horses that are specifically trained to be service animals. But we're talking about emotional support animals, not service animals. Emotional support animals don't require any training at all.
But in the case of miniature horses, they're relatively easy to train, are naturally inclined to follow a leader (in this case, their human) and have been living alongside humans for around 6000 years, meaning that they are pretty tuned-in to humans' behaviors and emotions. So even if they're not trained professionally, their demeanor means that they're well suited for the job.
What Are The Logistics Of Flying With A Horse?
Since miniature horses aren't actually that big (they won't get bigger than a big dog), it's not that hard to get them onto planes. A viral photo of a horse sitting on a plane in front of it's owners' knees proves that, if you get a seat in an emergency exit row or at the beginning of the plane, a miniature horse can fit in front of you.
The New York Times interviewed the owner of a miniature horse, detailing how she warns the airlines that she is bringing a horse with her, transports the horse to the airport (in the back of her car), gets it to poop in a plastic bag, and how it sits on the plane in front of her knees. If you can handle the emotional stress of bringing a horse on a plane (getting myself on there is hard enough), it doesn't sound too difficult.
So, if you have emotional, physical or intellectual needs that can be helped with the presence of a furry creature, consider adopting a miniature horse. They're small, obedient, intelligent, and most of all, will love you as much as you love them. Oh, and you can take them on planes.
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