In Atlanta, Delta Air Lines will no longer allow passengers to fly with “pit bull type” dogs as either service or support animals. The new ruling has been met with severe criticism by organizations that train service dogs and the people who depend on these dogs to help them function in everyday life -especially veterans.
Delta described the ban as an “enhancement” to its already amended policy on animals in passenger areas. In addition, passengers will be limited to one emotional support animal per flight. The changes are scheduled to take effect on July 10.
The latest policy change is a result of “growing safety concerns” after two employees were recently bitten by a passenger’s emotional support dog in Atlanta during boarding of a flight to Tokyo. The passenger had two pit bulls; the dogs along with the passenger were removed from the flight according to AJC. Both dogs were emotional support dogs and not service dogs that have a higher level of training. People with service dogs are protected under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows them to take their dogs into areas other animals would not normally be permitted, such as restaurants and airplane cabins.
Delta requires advance notice and a doctor’s statement for emotional support animals.
“The safety and security of Delta people and our customers is always our top priority,” Gil West, Delta’s chief operating officer said. “We will always review and enhance our policies and procedures to ensure that Delta remains a leader in safety.”
The airline carries about 700 service or support animals each day, or nearly 250,000 annually. Delta said it has experienced an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service or support animals, including urination, defecation and an attack on a passenger by a 70-pound dog.
In recent backlash however, the pit bull types of dogs, that make up a large percentage of shelter animals needing homes, have become very popular with veterans. The dogs are extremely smart and have an aptitude for service work. Supporters of the breed state Delta’s new ban is nothing more than breed discrimination and believe the dogs should be judged on their behavior – not just their breed or breed mix.
Airlines have been changing their rules regarding service dogs and emotional support dogs. One of the most widely reported tragedies occurred in March when a 10-month-old puppy was ordered to be placed in an overhead compartment during a United Airlines flight.
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