Photo: Emmanuelle Bonzami / EyeEm / Getty Images / EyeEm, Getty Images
Mirna Gonzalez had just moved away from the C7 gate of Portland International Airport when she heard the screams.
On December 18, 2017, she was gone to buy a coffee, while her children were waiting for a flight from Alaska Airlines to Texas. Just before Christmas, her 5-year-old daughter Gabriella was supposed to be sitting. at the door with his big brother.
But when Gonzalez came back, Gabriella's face was covered with blood.
While her mother was away, Gabriella asked if she could pet a dog, a pit bull, who would be an emotional support animal.
As soon as she reached out, she bit herself in the face.
It's according to a $ 1.1 million lawsuit that Gonzalez filed this week on behalf of his daughter against the dog's owner, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Portland municipal agency, accusing them of negligence, the dog having been allowed to cross the airport without being in a crate. The incident is one of the many high-profile allegations of bad animal behavior in airport assistance, as airlines and the federal government struggled to meet a number increasing number of complaints, ranging from bad training to cleanliness to biting.
The episodes have proliferated over the past two years, fueling a debate about how animals should be regulated during their travels. In June 2017, a 70-pound emotional support dog bit a man in the face while he was sitting at his seat in the window, during a Delta Air Lines flight departing from ################################################################################ Atlanta, leaving him with 28 stitches. In February 2018, an emotional support dog bit the forehead of a little girl on a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix, leaving him only a scratch but causing panic.
In Gabriella's case, she had to undergo an operation on the tear duct, leaving her with permanent scars, her lawyer Chad Stavley told the Washington Post. The pit bull severed his lachrymal canal and disfigured his upper lip, leaving a missing piece, according to a photo of his injuries provided by Stavley.
Mr. Stavley said he hoped the lawsuit, filed Monday in the Multnomah County Court of Proceeding, would push airports and airlines to strictly enforce the policies surrounding emotional support for animals most often created in response to dog bites of 2017 and 2018. The new rules are aimed at suppressing animals for psychological assistance or fraudulent assistance animals (domestic pets disguised as assistants) while ensuring that the animals they really need are kept away from other passengers as much as possible.
Stavley said that he was considering whether the dog who had bit Gabriella was a legitimate emotional support dog. The owner of the dog, Michelle Brannan, claims that it was, according to the lawsuit. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night. We do not know if she still has the dog. According to a report published in December 2017 by KATU 2 News, the dog was quarantined in an animal shelter for 10 days after the attack and the owner was cited by the police for not having it. caged.
"There is a lot of abuse of this emotional support animal situation," Stavley said, "and people who have legitimate assistance animals – people who are blind and in need of help. guide dogs and others – are somehow thrown into the same boat [as emotional support animals]. It does not light up these people well. "
The port of Portland and Alaska Airlines, operated by Brannan and the Gonzalez family that day, both refused to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Alaska Airlines was one of the airlines that changed their emotional animal support policy in 2018. The airline's new regulations, which came into effect in October, require owners to keep their dog or cat – the only animal. allowed on board – in a carrier or on a leash at all times and provide 48 hours notice and proper documentation prior to their flights.
"We are making these changes now, based on a number of recent incidents in which inappropriate emotional support animal behavior has impacted or even injured our employees, other customers and their families. assistance animals, "said Ray Prentice, director of customer defense at Alaska Airlines. Statement of April 2018. "Most animals are no problem. However, in recent years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of incidents involving animals that have not been trained enough to behave in a busy airport or on an airplane, which has led us to strengthen our capabilities. Our policy. "
Incidents involving assistance animals were not limited to dog bites. An assistance dog, a golden retriever named Eleanor Rigby, gave birth to puppies in a terminal in Tampa in June, although people did not complain much. Bad news, a hammock owner called Pebbles, with emotional support, was thrown out of the owner's restroom in February 2018 after Spirit Airlines informed the student that she could not take the girlfriend to her house. animal with her on the flight from Baltimore. Another man is angry at United Airlines for refusing Dexter, his reputedly emotional peacock for Instagram, a place in the plane from Newark, while he had bought a ticket for the bird.
"We explained this to the customer three times before his arrival at the airport," said a spokeswoman for the airline at The Post.
When United announced its policy change in February 2018, the airline reported seeing a 75% increase in the number of customers carrying animals with emotional support. When Delta announced changes to its policy in January 2018, the airline reported an 84% increase in "incidents involving animals" since 2016, including urination and defecation and "aggression" on the part of animals, "behavior that is not usually observed in these animals when properly trained and working."
Concerns from airlines also prompted the transportation department to review its own rules for assistance and assistance animals last year. The agency aimed to quell "fraudulent use" of animals that are not really assistance animals and to ensure that measures are in place to prevent ill-bred animals to board flights. It has not yet released a last rule change.
In the meantime, Stavley said Gabriella Gonzalez would not board a plane in the future. The girl has developed a fear of airports, he said, as well as a fear of dogs hugging.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Meagan Flynn · NATIONAL, TRANSPORT · Feb. 28, 2010 2019 – 06:11