There was a horse in the ticketing line at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport late last week. It might have been more well-mannered than some of the passengers that day too. It’s owner claims to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and she takes the 135 pound horse with her wherever she goes. The horse is named Flirty, and she even reminds her owner to take her medication. She also provides her owner with emotional support during times of high anxiety. American Airlines was pleased to have Flirty aboard the flight to Omaha at no charge whatsoever.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, miniature horses are permitted to fly with passengers as service animals. One passenger who had her objections to the flying horse remarked that they aren’t designed to “go 500 mph through the sky.” She said to Today and NBC News, “If you’re too nervous to fly, take a train or Xanax.” Her sentiments were that bringing a horse on commercial flight was “incredibly stressful and distracting” for the humans on the flight and stressful for the horse too.
Other people spoke up in defense of the owner and her horse. One person stated that the horse is a trained service animal, just like a dog would be. “It’s actually against the ADA to not allow it on.” The owner of the horse said that the horse took a nap on the flight. She told reporters that she fed Flirty treats when the aircraft was ascending and descending in order to help her adjust to the pressure changes. The horse displayed minimal discomfort by shaking her head once or twice, but the treats were said to have kept Flirty comfortable.
Because of the inconvenience to other passengers, the horse’s owner has opted out of any other flights in the foreseeable future. She’s apparently concerned that Flirty was “jostling” seats ahead of her too much. Regardless of the propensity for bumping into seats ahead of them, the U.S. Transportation Department indeed does recognize miniature horses as emotional support animals on flights. Airlines have been instructed to use a case-by-case determination on the safety of emotional support animals. Travelers who intend to fly with them can be required to check in at ticketing counters so that a traveler’s animal can be evaluated.