From horses to peacocks, the wildest emotional support animals spotted on flights

As the US's era of emotional support animals looks set to come to an end, look back at some of the wildest animals to onboard flights

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Earlier this month, the US brought in a new rule that allows airlines to ban all emotional support animals, meaning they are no longer required to board the likes of horses, pigs, peacocks and turkeys for psychological reasons.

The new rule marks clearly the difference between trained support animals and emotional support animals, with owners now expected to check the latter into the cargo hold and pay any relevant airline fees.

Alaska Airlines became the first to revise its service animal policy, in line with the US Department of Transportation's new rule, on December 29. "Alaska Airlines will no longer accept emotional support animals on its flights," a statement from the airline read. "Effective January 11, 2021, Alaska will only transport service dogs, which are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability."

FILE - In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the isle inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport while taking part in a training exercise, in Newark, N.J. Delta Air Lines says for safety reasons it will require owners of service and support animals to provide more information before their animal can fly in the passenger cabin, including an assurance that it's trained to behave itself.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

In the past, people carrying emotional support animals have been accused by critics of taking advantage of the system in order to transport their animals for free.

The US DoT said that people taking unusual pets on flights as emotional support animals had "eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals".

Here, we round-up of the most memorable animals spotted travelling by air  or at least trying to:

1. Dexter the emotional support peacock 

Dexter the peacock was turned away from a United Airlines flight from Newark International Airport in 2018.

At the time, an airline spokesperson said: "We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport."

The peacock's owner shared a photo of the bird at the airport on Instagram, writing: "Spent six hours trying to get on my flight to LA (after following all required protocol) Tomorrow my human friends are going to drive me cross country!"

2. Daniel the emotional support duck

Writer Mark Essig first posted about Daniel the duck, and his owner Carla Fitzgerald, back in October 2016. The two flew from Milwaukee to Asheville via two American Airlines flights.

"I heard a few maybe semi-critical mutterings, like, 'Now I've seen everything,' " Mark Essig told The Washington Post at the time. "But most everybody was delighted to have a duck on a plane. As they should be."

3. Fred the miniature service horse

Ronica Froese/Cover Images via Reuters

You might not be surprised to see a dog on a flight these days, but a horse would have most people doing a double take in their seats! 
That’s exactly what happened when human Ronica Froese flew across the United States with her 18-month-old miniature service horse, Fred. 
Froese, who has an incurable autoimmune disease and has specially trained Fred as an equine service animal, told Cover Images that the pair flew on American Airlines from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Ontario, California on February 7th for a vacation —even connecting in Dallas along the way.
As this was Fred’s first-time flying Froese made sure that all bases were covered when it came to their journey together. 
“I have three fellow miniature service horse handlers that have all flown in the past who helped me prepare for the trip - we did shot gun take offs in my Ford F150 with loud airplane noises through the blue tooth to try and make it similar to take off as well had super hard stops to train for landing.  
“What we did in training way more traumatic then the flights actually were. 
“Fred is house trained and trained to go potty every four to five hours for the flights; I made sure the flights were no longer than three hours for his comfort level. 
“He is also trained to potty on command while I catch it in a handicapped bathroom stall.  Which we had to do on the return flight since no one knew where the animal relief area was I the concourse we were in.
“I purchased two first class seats in bulkhead seating so he had the most room and so we didn't bother any other passengers on the plane and I bought a yoga mat to put on the floor for him to stand on for traction with his Equine Fusion Active Horse Shoes from Comfort Hoofs.”
Throughout the flight Fred was able to stable himself - “most likely because he is used to riding around in the back of my truck.”
Furthermore, Fred is trained to lay down on command, and even sit in his owner’

In February this year, Ronica Froese, who has an incurable autoimmune disease, flew across the United States with her 18-month-old miniature service horse, Fred. The two flew on American Airlines from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Ontario, California, on February 7 for a vacation — even connecting in Dallas along the way. As this was Fred's first time flying, Froese made sure that all bases were covered when it came to their journey together.

"I have three fellow miniature service horse handlers that have all flown in the past who helped me prepare for the trip," Froese said at the time. "Fred is house-trained and trained to go potty every four to five hours for the flights; I made sure the flights were no longer than three hours for his comfort level."

4. An emotional support pig

In January 2018, Jim Cunningham photographed a pig in the arms of its owner on his flight – although, he did not share where he was flying to or from.

"There was an emotional support pig on my flight," Cunningham wrote on Twitter. "We have officially entered an episode of Black Mirror."

5. Gizmo the emotional support marmoset

Gizmo, an emotional support marmoset, landed his owner, Jason Ellis, in hot water back in August 2016. Ellis failed to inform the airline, Frontier Airlines, that Gizmo would be flying with him from Ohio to Las Vegas. When the miniature primate peeked out of his owner's shirt, Ellis didn't have the appropriate paperwork to hand. And when the two tried to take the return leg of their journey, Ellis found that they had been placed on Frontier’s no-fly list, denying them entry to the plane.

6. A turkey in airport security 

The origins of the photo aren't clear, but it is wheeled out by popular travel Instagram account Passenger Shaming each Thanksgiving ... a turkey in airport security.

The Instagram account highlights some of the terrible, and frankly revolting, behaviour from passengers on flights in its regular posts.

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