In recent years, there has been a growing problem on airline flights around the country: so-called emotional support animals. While some animals do receive special training and service-animal designation, most of these “emotional support” animals are clearly just pets that people want to bring on a plane without consequences or extra costs.
At best, this practice is irritating, and it may lead to suspicion of those using actual service animals. At worst, it can be downright dangerous. Recently, the mother of a young girl filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against Alaska Airlines after her daughter was bitten in the face by an “emotional support pit bull.”
According to the Washington Post, the incident happened at the Portland International Airport in December 2017. The mother briefly left her two children at the gate to buy a cup of coffee. While she was gone, the 5-year-old girl asked if she could pet the dog, which then bit her face. She now has permanent scars and had to undergo tear-duct surgery.
The lawsuit names Alaska Airlines, the dog’s owner and the municipal agency Port of Portland. It asserts that the dog should not have been allowed through the airport without being in a crate.
Because of this and numerous similar incidents, airlines are finally beginning to crack down on passengers bringing pets aboard disguised as service animals. Hopefully, the threat of litigation will be enough to end this practice once and for all, so that no other children or adults will need to fear for their safety while sitting in an airport or on a plane.