SERVICE ANIMALS: A Follow Up Regarding Delta’s Pit Bull Ban

Previously, I wrote a blog regarding Service Animals and the rules surrounding them. On June 20, 2018, Delta announced a ban on all “pit bull type” service and support dogs effective July 10, 2018. (Read Full Announcement Here)

Airlines are not only subject to the federal service animal codes, but also the federal Dept of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act Regulation which appears to authorize not only service animals but also emotional support animals. (I have not read nor do I comment on this particular regulation.)The distinction between the two is generally training and the applicable governmental regulations. Service animals, per federal regulation, can only be dogs and miniature horses. These animals receive extensive training to do their job and to control their “natural ambitions” in places that might normally trigger them to “misbehave”. They are work dogs, not pets. Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) do not usually receive this type of training, and many times, no training at all. ESA’s are more like pets which understandably might make not only the airline, but also the passengers and staff concerned about them being on a plane not having any specialized training to keep them under control.

Rules, just like laws, should be tailored to meet a specific need. Delta is concerned because two staff members were bitten by pit bull type dogs. Recognizing this, had they made a rule prohibiting pit bull type dogs, except service animals (not ESA’s), I believe they would be more justified and would probably pass scrutiny in any subsequent lawsuits or claims they may face. If a service animal owner of a pit bull breed sues or files a discrimination claim against the airline, I would place my bet on the owner. The effect of this rule is to prevent any disabled person who has a pit bull service animal from being able to fly on Delta. That, I believe, violates federal law.

The next question this rule raises, regardless of the service animal exclusion is: How much “pit bull” does a dog need to be to meet this regulation? If the dog is 10% pit bull, is that enough to prohibit it? How is airline staff to know the difference? What are the parameters being used to make this decision? This rule raises more questions than it gives answers and may lead to a fair amount of litigation. The article linked here details these issues in more detail. (Read More)

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