American Airlines said: ‘We recognize the important role trained service dogs, cats and miniature horses can play in the lives of those with disabilities.’

Horse joins owner on flight from Chicago as service animal

Pigs, turkeys, monkeys and ducks have all made their way into the skies to accompany their human companions. Others have been denied access to flights, including Dexter the peacock and one woman’s squirrel.

But Flirty the mini service horse successfully joined her owner, Abrea Hensley, on an American Airlines flight departing Chicago’s O’Hare international airport last week.

The horse caught the attention of fellow travelers who were surprised to see hooves queueing up to check in among the usual feet and suitcase wheels.

“There was a small horse in line at the airport today and I’m curious about it,” Twitter user Amberley Babbage said alongside a picture of Flirty with Hensley at the AA check-in desk.

Hensley later posted on Instagram pictures of Flirty on the flight, including one with a group of smiling flight crew members.

“They were fantastic and kind and very excited to see Flirty on their flight! Even the pilots had to come out to say hi,” read the caption.

Hensley, of Bellevue, Nebraska, told local news station KMTV 3 in February that most local businesses in her home town are welcoming to Flirty. She takes the horse to the movies, grocery shopping and even to her doctor’s appointments.

Flirty, who has a popular Instagram page and Twitter account, is described by his human handler as a “psych & mobility service horse”, and according to American Airlines is in fact a trained service animal. Hensley suffers from a variety of ailments including: depression, severe anxiety, panic disorder and PTSD.

But not everyone is friendly to Flirty. Hensley told the news station that she had been kicked out of stores twice and was “treated so poorly” by the managers. She said she was looking into pursuing legal action against the businesses.

Besides dogs, miniature horses who have been “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities” are the only other service animals the Department of Justice deems protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So like any other service animal, businesses that serve the public must allow Flirty to accompany her owner.

An American Airlines representative told the Today Show that they were happy to have Flirty onboard. “We recognize the important role trained service dogs, cats and miniature horses can play in the lives of those with disabilities.”

Hensley said in a tweet that, while her flight with Flirty went well, she will try to conduct their travels by car because it is easier on her horse and other passengers.