Passenger Badly Mauled by Emotional Support Dog on Delta Flight

Posted by Paige Cerulli

An emotional support dog on a Delta Airlines flight badly mauled a passenger and had to be removed from the flight. 

A passenger on a recent Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego was bitten by an emotional support dog which was riding in the plane cabin.

Bridget Maddox-Peoples, a passenger on the flight, noted that the dog was about 50 pounds and may have been a Lab mix. The Delta passenger who was attacked was sitting in a window seat, and the gentleman with the emotional support dog was in the middle seat next to him. Another fellow passenger on the flight noted that he saw the dog sitting in its owner's lap.

"The gentleman's face was completely bloody, blood in his eyes, cheeks, nose, his mouth, his shirt was covered in blood," said Maddox-Peoples.

The man who was mauled was removed from the flight to receive medical attention on his severe facial injuries. His condition is not yet known. The dog was cleared by local law enforcement, and he and his owner were re-accommodated on a later flight. The dog flew in a kennel for that later flight.

The dog's owner, whom was described as a "combat veteran," was said to be seen holding the dog in the gate area, crying and saying, "I know they're going to put him down."

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Delta issued the following statement:

"Prior to pushback of flight 1430, ATL-SAN,  a passenger sustained a bite from another passenger's emotional support dog. The customer who was bitten was removed from the flight to receive medical attention. Local law enforcement cleared the dog, and the dog and its owner were re-accommodated on a later flight; the dog will fly in a kennel."

Emotional support animals (ESA) do not face the same requirements as service animals. Emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits to their owners simply by their companionship. They aren't trained to perform specific duties like service animals are, and they don't undergo the same intense training and socialization requirements as service animals.

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Emotional support animals also don't have the same access to public places that service animals do. Store owners can allow emotional support animals, but aren't required to accommodate them in the same way that service animals must generally be permitted.

Often, emotional support animals are dogs or cats, but there have been more unusual emotional support animals, like a pig or even a turkey. Airlines allow emotional support animals to ride in the cabins of planes, rather than in the cargo areas, but the Department of Transportation has been reconsidering that policy. Passengers don't have to pay an additional cargo fee for emotional support animals in plane cabins, but there's also no law requiring that the animals be allowed to travel in the cabins.

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While service animals must undergo strict training in preparation to serve their owners in public, emotional support animals aren't held to the same requirements. This may have safety implications, not only for the general public, but also for the service dogs which encounter emotional support animals.

Do you think there should be more regulations of emotional support animals? Let us know in the comments!

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Passenger Badly Mauled by Emotional Support Dog on Delta Flight