What is a service animal? The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 didn't state that clearly, so for the past twenty years, people have been claiming to have all sorts of service animals as a loophole to carry them around while traveling or shopping in stores:
The law termed it "any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability" — but here was the rub: That seemed to imply that an elephant, just for instance, could make an excellent service animal.
Elephants are very smart. And strong. They can carry things for people and give them rides. Yet surely the lawmakers didn't intend for people to have service elephants they could go shopping with in grocery stores and travel with on planes.
Fortunately, in the last 20 years, no one ever seems to have claimed to have a service elephant. On the other hand, plenty of people have claimed to have service cats and rats and parrots and ferrets and llamas and iguanas and at least one snake (yes, really, a boa constrictor). And they've tried to take these service animals along with them everywhere — the way the law assured them they could — including into places where other people told them they were very out of place.
Impasse ensued. Confusion reigned. Until this March, when the government issued a new definition.
Well that loophole is now closed. The United States government has defined a service animal to be a trained dog (and under certain conditions, miniature horses).