‘Emotional Support Animal’ Mauls 5-Year-Old Girl At Airport, Lawsuit Claims

"Suffered injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves..."

Pitbull dogs bark during the Prague Pitbull show on June 19, 2010 in the capital city
MICHAL CIZEK / Stringer / Getty Images
 

A 5-year-old girl allegedly had her face mauled by an emotional support dog at the Portland Airport. Her mother has now filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the owner of the pitbull and Alaskan Airlines for allowing the dog on the plane, Fox News reports.

 

"The lawsuit, filed Monday in Multnomah County by Mirna Gonzalez on behalf of her daughter, Gabriela Gonzalez, claims Michelle Brannan, the dog’s owner, should have known her animal had 'vicious propensities' and that Alaska Airlines allowed her to bring a dangerous dog into the gate waiting area without being confined or trained," reports the outlet.

The incident allegedly occurred in December 2017 when 5-year-old Gabriella was waiting with her family for a flight to Texas at Gate C7. When Michelle Brannan arrived with her pit bull, Gabriella was given permission to pet the dog, which then bit her face as she was petting it. The pit bull passed through the ticketing process without pushback due to being an "emotional support animal."

"As a result of the incident, Gabriella Gonzalez suffered injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and soft tissue of her face, eye, eyelid, tear duct and lip, as well as emotional trauma,” the lawsuit reads. Left with permanent scarring, Gabriella also "required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct, and has incurred medical expenses and will incur future medical expenses."

 

The parents of Gabriella have also sued Alaska Airlines for not requiring passengers to properly secure their emotional support animals. Current policy only states the animal must be leashed and under the owner's control. The Port of Portland alleges, however, that Brannan's dog should have been properly secured. Alaska Airlines has issued no comment on the matter at this time.

 

Debate over whether or not airlines should allow emotional support animals has increased in recent years as the definition of emotional support animal continues to change and includes a wide range of animals beyond just dogs. Just last year, American Airlines implemented stricter provisions on emotional support animals. From The Daily Wire's Emily Zanotti:

The airline published the policy change to help alleviate a flood of "emotional support animal" requests, and to crack down on passengers who claim their pets are service animals in order to skip out on paying carrier charges.

The list of banned creatures includes amphibians, snakes, spiders, "non-household birds" (so no more "emotional support peacocks"), hedgehogs, insects, rodents, and any animal that has tusks, horns, or hooves, with the exception of miniature horses (so no more emotional support pigs, goats, and cows).

If your "emotional support animal" falls within the guidelines, American Airlines will now require at least 48 hours notice of your intent to board the plane with your animal. You will also have to provide a doctor's note certifying that you are actually in need of your emotional support cat, dog, or horse.

The airline says it will reserve the right to remove any support animal that looks "unclean" or is "smelly," and any animal that poses a threat to passengers, flight crew, or security personnel (including K-9 service officers). If the flight crew believes your animal isn't actually there for emotional support, they'll require you to pay the "pet fee" and abide by regulations set for traveling non-service animals.

Delta Airlines also cracked down on emotional support animals that year when a woman attempted to board a flight with her peacock claiming it was for "emotional support."

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