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Child Injured by “Emotional Support Animals” at Airline Gate

The Gonzalez family is taking legal action against Alaska Airlines, the municipal agency of Port of Portland, and owners of a pit bull that attacked their five-year-old daughter. The dog was allegedly an emotional support animal traveling with a passenger.

The event occurred when five-year-old Gabriella asked if she could pet a dog that was waiting with its owner to board the plan. According to lawsuit, the dog attacked the child as she reached out her hand to pet it.

Gabriella was forced to undergo tear-duct surgery as a result of the bite and was left with permanent scars. The bite severed her tear duct and disfigured her upper lip.

Gabriella’s injury is one of many high-profile allegations and complaints concerning the behavior of so-called support animals at airports.

Policies Concerning Emotional Support Animals Updated, Not Enforced

The problem is growing, especially in airports and other public areas and there is an ongoing debate concerning how animals should be regulated during travel.

In a separate incident that occurred in June 2017, a man was bit in the face as he sat down in his seat on a Delta Airlines flight leaving Atlanta. In February, a support dog bit a girl in the forehead on a Southwest Airlines flight leaving Phoenix.

Attorneys representing these injured parties say they not only want justice for their clients, but they also want the lawsuits to send a message to airports and airlines to enforce emotional support animal policies that are already in place. According to the existing rules, the airlines are supposed to “clamp down” on support animal fraud and keep true support animals as far away from other passengers as possible.

Alaska Airline’s policy requires owners keep the animals that accompany them in travel on a leash or in a carrier at all times and provide 48-hours of notice to the airline. They must also submit appropriate documentation before the flight. Only dogs and cats are allowed to fly with the airline.

According to Alaska Airlines director of customer advocacy, Ray Prentice, “Most animals cause no problems. However, over the last few years, we have observed a steady increase in incidents from animals who haven’t been adequately trained to behave in a busy airport setting or on a plane, which has prompted us to strengthen our policy.”

In addition to individual airlines reviewing and updating their policies, the Transportation Department is doing the same. The goal was to crack down on the “fraudulent use” of animals who aren’t really service animals and to make sure measures are in place to prevent badly behaved pets from boarding flights. A final update to its rules has yet to be issued.

Gabriella’s attorney said that the investigation into the event will include a determination as to whether the dog that bit his client was a legitimate emotional support animal or a family pet. The dog’s owner claims it is an emotional support animal. The dog was quarantined at a shelter for 10 days following the attack.

Experienced Law Firm Helps Dog Bite Victims

If you or a loved one has been injured by animal while traveling, you might have a right to take legal action. Contact Heavens Law at 888.897.5377 to schedule a free consultation.