Miniature horses accepted as service animals on board: Alaska Airlines

Credit : José Reynaldo da Fonseca/Wikipedia

Friday 19 October - 11h24 | Ian Clayton

Miniature horses accepted as service animals on board: Alaska Airlines

An airline in the United States will permit the use of miniature horses as service animals on flights, the New York Times reports. 

 - Miniature horses accepted as service animals on board: Alaska Airlines

Credit : Wikipedia/Montanabw

The miniature equines — usually between two–three feet tall and weighing between 70–100 pounds — join cats and dogs among the animals Alaska Airlines is allowing on board to assist people with disabilities. 

Service animals have been described as those which “provide assistance to a person with a cognitive, physical or emotional disability”. Typically, only dogs and cats have been allowed in such cases on airlines. 

Indeed, in recent times the desire of passengers to travel with emotional support animals has become a growing problem, with allegations that people are abusing the system and trying to pass off pets as essential travel companions. One woman in the U.S. reportedly tried to travel with a support peacock earlier this year.

The official Alaska Airlines policy, which took effect October 1, would allow a miniature horse as a trained service animal but not for emotional support. “Trained service animals or emotional support animals travel for free,” it explains. “The size of the animal must not exceed the footprint or personal space of the guest's seat or foot area during the entire flight.”

The idea has stirred up debate in some circles, with certain articles summing up the question with the title, ‘Yay or neigh?’. As the Times reports, some people who are blind prefer miniature horses as guide animals, and others might favour them over dogs for religious reasons.

But many, including miniature horse associations – who also raise the issue of animal well-being – are questioning whether there is merit to the idea, even in rare cases (one Alaska Airlines employee told the newspaper that he had never heard of someone wanting to take one on board). 

Of course, horses themselves have often benefitted from smaller companions such as donkeys, small horses or goats, but generally in more practical environments. The famous thoroughbred Seabiscuit, for example, is said to have enjoyed the company of various travel companions, including a stray dog and spider monkey named Jo Jo. 


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