Emotional Support Dog Bites Flight Attendant on the Hand

Victor Westerkamp
By Victor Westerkamp
July 24, 2019Animal
Emotional Support Dog Bites Flight Attendant on the Hand
An American Airlines plane takes off from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas on June 10, 2019. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)

A flight attendant of Envoy Air, an American Airlines affiliate, was bitten on the hand by an emotional support dog on a domestic flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Greensboro, North Carolina and needed five stitches.

The incident took place on Monday, July 22, when the unidentified male attendant reached for the sickness bag in the seatback, when a passenger didn’t feel well.

The comfort animal that the sick man brought with him, apparently felt threatened and bit the flight attendant in the left hand.

This has been one of many incidents involving emotional support animals—typically dogs—that bite or attack crew or passengers.

Dallas News reported on how the Association of Flight Attendants emotionally appealed for better regulations on inflight animals involving the safety of crew and passengers: “What happened on yesterday’s American Airlines flight is completely unacceptable and inexcusable. For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals. We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes. This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health, and security for passengers and crew while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.”

After landing at Piedmont Triad Airport in North Carolina, the attendant went to the hospital, where he was cleared sometime later. After the return flight to Dallas, it was decided that the injuries needed to be stitched.

The comfort animal issue has become controversial as more and more people bring along their pet animals and claim they need them for emotional support. That’s mainly seen in cases of passengers suffering from PTSD, anxiety, and other issues.

Certified service animals must be professionally trained under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional support animals do not need certification and are often not well trained.

Several airlines have upgraded their regulations to curb the number and variety of animals that accompany passengers in the cabin. The air fleet currently deals with a zoological exodus that ranges from squirrels, parrots, and snakes. It’s becoming like a contemporary Noah’s Ark.

American Airlines now requires a veterinarian’s report, including vaccination status.

One of the most severe calamities involving emotional support dogs happened in 2017.

Emotional Support Dog Bites Delta Passenger Several Times in the Face

Marlin Jackson, 44, of Daphne, Alabama, is suing Delta Airlines for gross negligence. An emotional support dog reportedly bit him several times in the face shortly before take-off on a Delta flight in June 2017, according to a lawsuit filed last on July 24, 2019.

The attack was so severe that Marlin Jackson suffered “extensive facial damage,” including a series of punctures and cuts to his face. He bled so profusely “that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane,” according to the suit filed by attorney J. Ross Massey, of Birmingham law firm Alexander Shunnarah & Associates.

A Delta spokesperson said in a statement the company could not comment on the pending lawsuit, but it “continuously reviews and enhances its policies and procedures for animals onboard as part of its commitment to health, safety and protecting the rights of customers with disabilities,” according to msm.com.

Since the incident in 2017, Delta Airlines updated its guidelines on the transportation of emotional-support and service animals, stipulating greater scrutiny for pets before they are allowed on board.

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