If you’ve traveled frequently, chances are you might have seen a guide dog sitting next to its owner on an airplane. But have you ever seen a guide horse?
Yes, you heard that right: Southwest Airlines recently changed its policy to include miniature horses on the approved list of service animals. Starting in September 2018, only dogs, cats, and miniature horses will be allowed to help their owners aboard flights.
While this might seem strange, Southwest and other airlines have been dealing with fake service animals for years, including a woman who wanted to bring her peacock emotional service animal aboard the airplane (spoiler alert: she was rejected), as well as snakes, rats, and even monkeys.
This new policy states that Southwest will only accept the animal if the staff can determine that the passenger has a disability and that passengers must correctly answer questions that prove the animal has been trained. In fact, there’s a specific organization called The Guide Horse Foundation that trains every miniature horse who becomes a service animal.
With all of this, you might be wondering, why would people use miniature horses instead of dogs as a service animal?
There are actually many benefits!
Perhaps the most important is that mini horses can live between 30 to 35 years, which is twice as long as dogs, who usually live for around 12 to 15 years, meaning that owners will need fewer horses in their lifetime. Likewise, miniature horses are only about 30 inches (0.75 meters) tall and can do a variety of tasks like bringing items, pushing wheelchairs, navigating for their blind owners, and more. Surprisingly, they have excellent navigation skills because they can sense roads better plus a wider field of vision because their eyes are on the sides of their heads.
The process of training a guide miniature horse takes about the same amount of time as a guide dog: about 8 to 10 months. They can learn over 25 commands and are extremely smart animals.
What do you think about Southwest’s new policy? Would you sit next to a miniature horse? Let us know in the comments below!