Delta Air Lines, which recently revised its rules on service animals, has once again amended their policy by prohibiting “pit bull type dogs” as emotional-support animals. The airline, which carries 700 service animals a day, will implement the changes on July 10. The modification to the policy is the result of several workers being allegedly bitten by dogs.
Delta revised its service animal regulations in March after a dog bit a traveler on a June 2017 flight from Atlanta to San Diego. “The safety and security of Delta people and our customers are always our top priority,” Delta COO Gil West said. “We will always review and enhance our policies and procedures to ensure that Delta remains a leader in safety.”
The changes in policy have bothered some animal rights advocates, who view the rule as discriminatory against pit bulls. According to Matt Bershadker, CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “Delta Airlines should resist unwarranted breed prejudice and rescind its breed ban.”
Abby Volin, the founder of Opening Doors, a consulting firm that specializes in pet welfare and policies, says the ban on pit bulls violates the Americans with Disabilities Act since the law stipulates that service dogs can’t be restricted by breed. “It’s arbitrary and has no bearing on public safety. Pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other type of dog as breed is not a measure of a dog’s aggressiveness,” she said.
All major airlines have revised their service animal policies after the Department of Transportation failed to find common ground between travelers, advocacy groups for the disabled and air carriers. Though most airlines allow passengers to transport animals in the cargo hold, there has been some controversy after several pets have died. Last year, 506,994 animals were transported in cargo. Of those, 24 died, 15 were injured and one was lost. Generally, smaller animals can be brought into the cabin in a cage if they can fit beneath the seat.
Service animals, however, can travel for free in the cabin without cages. The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes dogs and miniature horses as trained service animals, and the Air Carrier Access Act says service animals can fly with passengers, however, there hasn’t been consensus on what constitutes a service animal.
Emotional-support animals must be approved by a medical provider and must be healthy. Recently, passengers have tried to pass off a variety of species as service animals, including monkeys, pigs, and ducks, as well as reptiles, ferrets or rodents. Flight crews, however, believe passengers are trying to avoid paying fees for transporting pets by claiming them as emotional-support animals.