US airlines are limiting pets on board—but you can still bring your miniature horse

All aboard!
All aboard!
Image: Reuters/Mike Segar
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Americans love to fly with their animals. So much so that many US airlines are issuing new guidelines to ensure cabins don’t turn into a Noah’s Ark-like experience.

After a child was bitten on a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this year, the low-cost carrier is the latest to state its new rules. The carrier announced yesterday (Aug. 14) it will limit emotional-support animals (ESAs) to one dog or cat per person, with a doctor’s note required.

There is, however, a somewhat bewildering caveat: While “unusual or exotic” animals are no longer permitted as trained service animals (which is a separate category from ESAs), miniature horses are still allowed. JetBlue and American do the same. It’s a rule that raises the question: Where do you put a miniature horse on an airplane? (The answer is at your feet).

According to lobbying organization Airlines for America, the number of emotional support animals increased by more than 50% in 2017, reaching 751,000. The airlines’ new policies are presumably an attempt to reduce this number, as well as the passenger upset they can sometimes cause. So American, for instance, bans animals “with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals.)”

The miniature horses—they couldn’t drag those away.

Clarification: This post was updated to make it clearer that emotional support animals are a separate category from trained service animals.