The Most Unbelievable Service Animals To Ever Fly on a Plane


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The service industry, particularly airlines, has witnessed some rather unusual (and hilarious) cases of animals flying as emotional or service animals. From peacocks and turkeys to pigs and squirrels, these animals were allowed on board as support for their owners, showcasing the wide range of species that go beyond your typical service dog. But as entertaining as these cases are, they’ve also prompted debates over safety and policy as airlines strive to balance the needs of all passengers. 

Here are some of the most shocking creatures — service animals or otherwise — that were allowed to fly on a commercial flight, including a few that tried but did not ultimately make the cut. 

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1. Daniel the Duck

In October 2016, Daniel, a duck serving as an emotional support animal (ESA), flew from Milwaukee to Asheville on an American Airlines flight. Daniel was not only dressed in red shoes and a Captain America diaper but also had on a harness. His little outfit delighted fellow passengers who set social media ablaze with photos and videos of the adorable ESA. 

His owner, a 37-year-old woman named Carla Fitzgerald, said that Daniel helped manage her PTSD after she experienced a horrible accident in 2013. “Everyone just took notice of him and fell in love,” she told ABC. “I mean, he’s an adorable, funny and sweet little guy. He was very well behaved at the airport and during the flight.” 

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2. Dexter the Peacock

Dexter the peacock was brought to Newark Liberty International Airport in January 2018 by his owner, an artist, who intended to bring him on a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles. Despite appearing docile and well-behaved, Dexter was ultimately denied boarding due to concerns about his size, weight, and the potential for disruption. Dexter died a few months later in July 2018, according to his owner. 

The case also highlighted the challenges airlines faced with unusual emotional support animals, and led to increased scrutiny and policy changes regarding which animals should be allowed to fly on planes.

Image Credit: Dede Muttaqin /istockphoto.

3. A 300-Pound Pig

In October 2000, a passenger flew with her 300-pound emotional support hog (we can’t make this stuff up!) on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle. Though the animal initially seemed quite calm, it eventually became disruptive and started to howl loudly, defecate in the aisle, and even tried to make its way into the cockpit. 

Though the pig made it to its destination, its unruly behavior led to a ban of all farm animals in future flights. “We can confirm that the pig traveled, and we can confirm that it will never happen again,” US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said in response. “Let me stress that. It will never happen again.” We bet people were MAD. 

Image Credit: Mario Elias Munoz Valencia/istockphoto.

4. Fred the Miniature Horse

Fred, a 115-pound miniature horse, flew on a first-class ticket from Michigan to California in early 2020. As a trained service animal, Fred would assist her owner with medical alerts, anxiety management, and retrieving objects that she couldn’t get. “I have an incurable autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with four and a half years ago,” Fred’s owner, Ronica Froese, told CBS News.

Fred’s case was particularly notable as it demonstrated the compliance with American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, which recognize miniature horses as service animals as of 2011. 

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5. Easter the Turkey

In January 2016, a turkey flew as a “therapy pet” on a Delta flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City. The turkey, which even had its own seat, attracted significant attention from other passengers who took its picture to post on on social media. Named Easter after being adopted on Easter Day, the animal helped its owner manage anxiety and depression after the loss of her husband. 

“Easter came to me as a tiny poult at an emotionally difficult time in my life,” said its owner, Jodie Smalley. “She became a source of love and laughter… Something to focus and care for outside my issues… She remained a constant amongst chaos.”

Image Credit: Robert Winkler/istockphoto.

6. Daisy the Squirrel

In 2018, a woman attempted to bring a squirrel named Daisy on a Frontier Airlines flight by claiming it as an ESA. However, she was soon asked to leave the plane when the airline staff discovered the animal, as Frontier’s policy specifically excludes rodents from traveling in the cabin. The woman, who was later identified as Cindy Torek, told Fox 8 Cleveland that the employees called the police and threatened her with arrest. 

“You’re not taking my squirrel. Sorry, you’re not. I refuse,” Torek told the news outlet at the time. “You will not take my baby from me.” 

Image Credit: suefeldberg/istockphoto.

7. A Live Lobster

In 2017, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent encountered a surprising sight while inspecting luggage for a Jet Blue flight. As he inspected a particular bag that appeared unusual, he discovered a 20-pound live lobster inside. Surprisingly, live lobsters are allowed to be brought on planes. You just have to notify the airline beforehand, according to the TSA. 

“This is proof that lobsters are allowed in carry-on and checked bags. As you can imagine, they’re a popular item at New England airports,” TSA said after the incident. “Oh, in case you were wondering, butter and cheddar biscuits are permitted as well.”

Image Credit: WoodysPhotos/istockphoto.

8. Snakes and Turtles

In August 2011, a traveler was found attempting to smuggle seven snakes and three turtles by stuffing them in nylon stockings and hiding them inside his pants. The concealed reptiles were detected using TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology, which is designed to identify objects hidden from plain view. The incident took place at Miami’s International Airport. 

Upon discovery, officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) took custody of the reptiles, and the passenger was arrested and charged under the Lacey Act for illegal transportation of wildlife.

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9. Pete and Penny the Penguins

Pete and Penny, two Magellanic penguins from SeaWorld, were regular passengers on Southwest Airlines thanks to a long-standing partnership between the two companies that began in 1988. The collaboration was so iconic that Southwest even has three aircraft painted in a Shamu-themed aesthetic. The pair was so well traveled that they flew on Southwest as often as twice a month, the airline noted. 

“They like to say that Pete and Penny can’t fly, but when they do, they fly on Southwest Airlines,” said Michelle Agnew, a Southwest spokeswoman. Talk about a cool pair of flyers! 

Image Credit: fieldwork/istockphoto.

10. Harry the Kangaroo

In 2021, a joey (baby kangaroo) named Harry was seen boarding an American Airlines flight heading from North Carolina to Virginia. Harry, who was flying in the cabin, was treated as a regular passenger instead of being placed in the cargo hold. Harry’s relocation was part of a wildlife conservation effort and he was flying with a handler. 

His journey was documented by a flight attendant named Bobby Weston, who captured the event and shared the video on social media. “WHYYY aren’t I ever on the animal transport flights?” comments one user. “WHY… because I’m pretty sure I’d be too distracted to get any work done.” We have to agree — Harry is just too cute.

Image Credit: Gavin Guan/istockphoto.

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