When airlines make news with a new pet policy, the response is typically welcome. A growing number of passengers have been accompanied by companion and service animals in recent years, and knowing those animals can be accommodated is a tremendous comfort.
But not everyone is accommodated.
Delta airlines has recently altered its own pet policy, excluding “pit bull-type dogs” from all flights. This measure is “the direct result of growing safety concerns following recent incidents in which several employees were bitten,” the airline told the Associated Press.
Two Delta employees were reportedly bit by a Pit Bull who was allowed on the flight as a support animal on Delta flight 295 from Atlanta to Narita, Japan in early June 2018. The airline has already limited animals on flights exclusively to service animals. Now categorically prohibiting Pit Bulls, including those trained as service or support animals, Delta is drawing the ire of advocates for the species, as well.
“First and foremost, it’s about people. Delta is discriminating against people,” Regina Lizik of the Animal Farm Foundation in New York told the Washington Post.“When Delta or anyone puts out a regulation like this that dictates what kind of dog can be a service dog, they are reducing access for someone with a disability.”
Lizik’s organization trains rescued Pit Bulls as service dogs for individuals with disabilities. The animals go through a rigorous training, and once placed in the care of individuals with disabilities, their federally recognized status as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act is nearly irremovable.
This is where Delta may have crossed a line.
Alongside the claims of breed discrimination by animal activists, the federal Department of Transportation has questioned Delta’s decision, maintaining “a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal is not allowed under the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act regulation.”
Passengers with Pit Bull service dogs that have been declined service by Delta can file a disability complaint with the DOT. The Air Carrier Access Act provides airlines the right to allow service and support animals in the flight cabin, as well as the right to decline animals if they pose a problem to other passengers or staff.
According to the Washington Post, service dogs are exempt from municipal breed bans. The fact that Delta is implementing such a ban, rather than judging each animal on a case by case basis, may land the airline in legal trouble.
Click the link below to learn more about breed specific discrimination, and how you can help end it.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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