Feds: Miniature horses are allowed to fly as service animals

Miniature horse(File Photo by Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that miniature horses are still officially allowed to fly as service animals in all cabins of commercial planes, in a statement aiming to define the guidelines regarding protections for emotional support and psychiatric service cats, dogs and the tiny equines.

Last Thursday, the agency released its final statement of enforcement priorities for service animals, clarifying the federal government’s policies for what types of animals should always be allowed to travel with their owners.

In recent months, both public and professional organizations, including the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), have urged lawmakers to review the rules for service animal designations during air travel, to combat an alleged culture of “rampant abuse” of protocol. The AFA claimed that the matter was escalating into a “safety, health, and security issue” that was “negatively affecting all passengers.”

“After reviewing the comments on this issue, we believe that it would be in the public interest and within our discretionary authority to prioritize ensuring that the most commonly recognized service animals (i.e., dogs, cats, and miniature horses) are accepted for transport,” the department's Aug. 8 update stated.

“We stated that while we will focus on ensuring the transport of dogs, cats and miniature horses, we may take enforcement action against carriers for failing to transport other service animals on a case-by-case basis,” it continued.

The announcement doesn’t bind airlines to fly all service miniature horses by law, but does allude to penalties if carriers violate the new rule, CBS reports. Mini horses were also not previously banned by the Department of Transportation.

Domestic airlines were given 30 days to review the mandate and revise company rules to better accommodate service canines, felines and mini equines.