Read the original article by Jeff Martin at journalgazette.com here.
Delta Air Lines says it’s no longer allowing passengers to fly with “pit bull type” dogs as service or support animals, a policy that’s being met with criticism by groups that train service dogs and the people who use them.
The Atlanta-based airline describes its ban as an “enhancement” to its policy on animals in passenger areas. Delta will also limit travelers to a single emotional support animal per flight. The changes, announced this week, take effect July 10.
“It’s a bit nuts because Delta is actually my preferred airline to fly with my service dog,” said Fiona Gilbert of the San Francisco area, who said she flew about 300,000 miles with Delta in the past year with her pit bull-type dog, Koda.
Gilbert has a degenerative neurological condition, and Koda can sense when she might have a seizure and then get help if needed, she said.
“He’s basically my alert system,” she said. “He’s my emergency response system. I trust him more than I trust myself when it comes to not feeling well. He’s been trained to get help if I need him to. Koda and I are a team – we’re inseparable.”
Now, Gilbert has 20 trips planned with Delta later this year and is scrambling to figure out what to do.
Delta said its ban on pit bull-type dogs responds to “growing safety concerns” after several employees were bitten, the airline said in a statement.
“We must err on the side of safety,” Delta said in a statement Friday. “Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk.”
The bite happened during the boarding process for Delta flight 295 from Atlanta to Narita, Japan, the airline said.
The ban is prompting a social media backlash, and is being criticized by several animal groups.
Delta “should resist unwarranted breed prejudice and rescind its breed ban,” Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a statement Thursday.