Animals brought into airplane cabins have faced increasing scrutiny, resulting in many airlines deciding to tighten their rules and policies for animals boarding a plane.
Many of these new policies limit or completely disallow untrained animals on flights as well as unusual species of animals, with the intent to make sure that only individuals with disabilities have emotional-support or service animals with them on planes.
Delta Airlines took this a step ahead when the company announced that all pit bull-type dogs would be prohibited from being on flights. The reason behind this move, according to the airline, is because of increasing safety concerns due to staff being bitten – especially as two of these staff members were bitten by an emotional-support pit bull the week before the announcement.
This announcement caused a heavy backlash among both pit bull advocates, disability advocates, and even service dog groups and organizations. Pit bulls have been negatively viewed for years and many advocates for them to be seen as individual dogs and not representations of their entire breed.
Many also argue that this new policy does not discriminate against an entire breed alone, but also against individuals with disabilities because they will not be able to fly at all if they happen to have a pit bull as a service or emotional-support dog. Even dogs that have a resemblance to pit bulls but are not from that breed at all may be at risk of being turned away.
The Department of Transportation stated that the Air Carrier Access Act regulation does not allow for limitations and prohibitions on service animals specifically for breeds, bringing into question the legality of Delta Airline’s announcement. The department also suggested that any Delta Airlines passengers – or passengers of any airline – who are not allowed to board because of the breed of their service or emotional-support animal should file a disability complaint.
It is worth noting that airlines are allowed through the Air Carrier Access Act to turn away individual animals if they believe they may be dangerous, and they can ban breeds of non-service animals if necessary. However, they cannot legally put a blanket ban on an entire breed of service animals, and as of now, it is unclear whether this breed ban will hold up in court, as it is the first of its kind. Similar cases have happened before, mostly ruling in favor of the individual with a disability.
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Feature Image Source: Delta Airlines / Facebook