Trouble In The Air: Man's Best Friend Bites Fellow Passenger
It seems like every few days we learn of another story about the airline industry and their mistreatment of airline passengers. Recently, emotional support animals, typically dogs, have been allowed on flights to assist with the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the passengers who need the support animal's help.
Unfortunately, there was an incident on a flight originating from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta involving an emotional support animal. The accident took place while passengers began boarding a flight to San Diego. On the way into the plane, a passenger's emotional support dog bit another passenger.
The facts of the incident were not clear from initial news reports. However, one eyewitness to the attack told reporters that the attack victim's face was bloody and his shirt was covered with blood. The witness also stated that the dog attacked with multiple bites. As a result, the dog bite victim was transported to a local hospital with bite wounds to his face. His injuries were described as severe. The man was listed in stable condition at the hospital.
The dog bite occurred on a Delta flight. Delta permits owners of emotional support dogs and other animals to board a flight without the necessity of a kennel if the animal satisfies particular safety and behavioral requirements. Federal law permits air carriers like Delta to allow service animals on board if the animals have been properly certified and meet other requirements. One of those requirements is to behave in public in the manner which a support animal is expected to behave. The passenger need not secure the animal in a crate or kennel if the animal has been trained adequately and act the way service animals behave.
Local police investigated the incident. The police did not charge the dog owner who police listed as a Marine veteran who was issued the emotional support dog as a result of his military service. The passenger and dog were permitted to fly together. Delta required the dog to be placed in a kennel on this trip. Police described the dog as a chocolate lab-pointer mix.
Many more people are traveling with animals and many passengers are traveling with service dogs and emotional support animals. The increase of travelers bringing their pets and emotional support dogs or service dogs forced Hartsfield-Jackson to install animal relief areas within terminal areas. Federal law mandates that pet relief areas be installed on every concourse and be wheelchair accessible. All people traveling with pets will be allowed to use the pet relief areas.
The proliferation of traveling with pets increases the potential for harm to other passengers, like the man who was bitten in the face while boarding a plane. Passengers are at risk for contact with service animals, most of which will be dogs. Many people have voiced complaints about the number of service animals on-board fights. People with allergies have expressed significant discomfort when service animals are on-board.
Service animals are not limited to various dog breeds. For example, one man recently boarded a flight with an emotional support turkey. It seems strange to travel with a turkey, but there are few limitations as to what animals can be used for emotional support. Notwithstanding, Delta has some rules. Hedgehogs, reptiles, and ferrets are not permitted on flights because of the potential to spread disease.
The overarching point here is that no matter what animal a person chooses to use as an emotional support animal, the owner, airline, and airport could be liable for injuries caused by animals.
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