Woman brings mini service horse on American Airlines flights as DOT considers ban

Giddy up — up, up and away.

A Michigan woman is sharing the positive “tail” of her recent American Airlines flights with a miniature service horse.

The equine lover hopes that her horse’s first-ever flights won’t be his last, however, as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed a ban to restrict and limit service and emotional support animals to only trained service dogs.

On Feb. 7, Ronica Froese flew from Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Michigan to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with a final destination of Ontario International Airport in California. It was no ordinary journey, as Froese had her miniature service horse Fred in tow, she told Fox News on Tuesday.

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Froese, who runs the animal-assisted therapy nonprofit Little Horses Big Smiles Inc., said that the trip — and their return journey home on Feb. 14 through the same airports — was totally smooth.

A Michigan woman is sharing the positive “tail” of her recent American Airlines flights with a miniature service horse.

A Michigan woman is sharing the positive “tail” of her recent American Airlines flights with a miniature service horse. (WXMI / Facebook, Fred-Mini Service Horse)

“All of the airplane employees and airport employees were incredibly kind. It was so wonderful, even every pilot wanted a picture [with Fred]!” she told Fox News.

Ahead of the trek, Froese spent months preparing Fred for his trip, and even purchased two first-class seats to ensure her mini companion would be comfortably accommodated on the plane, Fox 17 reports.

“I purchased two first-class seats in bulkhead seating, I paid an arm and a leg for tickets but I did so because it was Fred’s first time and I wanted him to be comfortable. I wanted him to have the most room,” she said. “Everyone was sweet as pie, TSA was amazing. The experience was way better than I actually anticipated.”

On Facebook, Froese thanked all four sets of pilots, copilots and flight attendants on the American Airlines flights for their kindness and encouraging words during all the trips.

Ahead of the trek, Ronica Froese spent months preparing Fred for his trip, and even purchased two first-class seats to ensure her mini companion would be comfortably accommodated on the plane.

Ahead of the trek, Ronica Froese spent months preparing Fred for his trip, and even purchased two first-class seats to ensure her mini companion would be comfortably accommodated on the plane. (WXMI / Facebook, Fred-Mini Service Horse)

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“Their excitement to have a legit service horse on board, and in first-class, no less, was a breath of fresh air. Their kindness and comments about how well behaved Fred was made me the proudest Mommy, handler, and trainer EVER,” she wrote. “They were all super respectful and I think if they all commented on the coming changes the DOT is trying to [implement], it could help our very small community of miniature service horse handlers keep our right to fly with our horses.”

Froese is referring to a January proposal from the DOT calling for a ban on emotional support animals as well as a restriction on the types of service animals that passengers would be allowed to bring on planes, limiting them only to trained service dogs.

Ronica Froese thanked all four sets of pilots, copilots and flight attendants on the American Airlines flights for their kindness and encouraging words during all the trips.

Ronica Froese thanked all four sets of pilots, copilots and flight attendants on the American Airlines flights for their kindness and encouraging words during all the trips. (iStock)

The DOT announced the proposal in response to the rising numbers of support and service animals accompanying their owners during air travel, and to “ensure that our air transportation system is safe for the traveling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities,” according to the DOT’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

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Under the proposed guidelines, emotional support animals would no longer be considered service animals, and actual service animals would be restricted to dogs that have been “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”

Passengers flying with service animals would also be limited to two animals per traveler and required to check in one hour earlier than those without, among other regulations.

The DOT added that it would not be requiring airlines to abide by these regulations if the proposal is adopted, but rather leave it up to each individual carrier to choose whether or not to enforce the rules regarding emotional support and service animals.

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Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.