Entertainment

This Airline Bucks the Trend, Allows Emotional Support Mini Horses — and More

Welcome aboard, Fido, Fluffy and Flicka! (But what about those of us who are allergic to these critters?)

Southwest Airlines, America’s largest domestic air carrier,  announced changes to its policy for trained service and emotional support animals that “fly in the face” of those instituted by their competitors.

United Airlines, for example, famously clipped the wings on allowing support peacocks like Dexter to fly the friendly skies back in January, joining Delta in tightening the reins on pet-related policies.

Sadly, Dexter the peacock, the bird that ruffled so many feathers, died unexpectedly in late July, according to an Instagram post by his owner, an artist called Ventico.

Though it is too late for Dexter, it is not too late for others of Dexter’s general ilk, including neighing, 350-pound, four-legged varieties.

Beginning on Monday, September 17, Southwest Airlines will be rolling out the red carpet for emotional support animals (ESAs), including cats, dogs, and — wait for it — miniature horses.

“What about me?” Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo joked Thursday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

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“I’m allergic to cats and dogs,” he said, adding that 30 percent of people suffer from similar allergies.

“I really think it’s so people can get around the airfares for their pets,” said Arroyo, referring to the explosion of emotional support animals flying with their owners.

Related: 10 of the Craziest Pet Products on the Market

“So the peanut allergy people, they’re protected, but —” began host Laura Ingraham; and then Arroyo finished the comparison with, “— the 30 percent of Americans who are pet allergy sufferers, you just gotta eat veggie chips and suffer.”

In addition to the policy change concerning emotional service animals, Southwest also announced its formal recognition of “fully-trained psychiatric support animals (PSAs).”

Though the airline had informally been in the habit of accepting PSAs, it’s now officially sealed the deal.

PSAs whose owners provide the airline with “credible verbal assurance” soon will be afforded the opportunity to enjoy airline food and in-flight movies with the rest of the human passengers.

Southwest does have a couple of rules it hopes will help rein in potential abuses of the policy.

Travelers with serious reservations about sharing an aisle seat with Fido, Fluffy, or Flicka may feel better knowing that ESAs must be leashed or in carriers. Their owners also will have to provide a letter from a physician or licensed mental health professional.

Also, “exotic or unusual animals” remain on the no-fly list.

Animals must be trained, must be well-behaved, and must be under their handlers’ control at all times. It they get out of line — perhaps nicking a snack from a vendor while waiting at the gate — they can be denied boarding.

Don’t count on rewarding your emotional support miniature horse’s good behavior with peanuts, though.

Southwest discontinued serving the iconic snack during all flights on August 1.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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