A Delta Air Lines passenger on Flight 1430 was harmed by an emotional support dog. The owner and emotional support dog were occupying a center seat. The victim was in a window seat. The dog was moved to the owners lap. Before takeoff the emotional support dog attacked the passenger, inflicting wounds to the victims’ face. The victim was taken off the aircraft for medical treatment.
Delta Flight 1430 was scheduled to depart from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to San Diego. The flight was delayed after the incident. The emotional support dog and owner traveled on a later flight, where the animal was transported by kennel. Reports state that the emotional support dog is a 50 pound Labrador-mix. The owner is thought to be a combat veteran. Delta Air Lines confirmed the accident, victims’ medical treatment, and later flight of the emotional support dog and owner.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include the use of emotional support animals, the Air Carrier Access Act protects emotional support animal travel. The Air Carrier Access Act allows for the travel of emotional support animals in the aircraft cabin and prohibits airlines from charging additional fees. An emotional support animal (ESA) provides comfort to people suffering from adverse psychological or emotional conditions. Unlike a service animal, such as a guide dog, special training is not required for emotional support animals. A medical recommendation, identification card, and a support vest or tag are required by most airlines when providing accommodations for emotional support animals.
People are divided on the acceptance of emotional support animals in the aircraft cabin during commercial flights. Those against emotional support animal travel feel that too many issues arise that affect passenger safety, compromise hygienic conditions, and are unfair to passengers that pay for pet travel. Without considering animal attacks, animals loose in the cabin can cause issues in the event of emergencies that require evacuation. Passengers that have allergies to emotional support animals may need to switch flights to avoid reactions. Over the past few years, airline employees state that there has been a dramatic rise in the prevalence of emotional support animals on aircraft. Issues have surfaced where some airline passengers are claiming that their pets are emotional support animals to avoid pet fees or pet travel in the cargo area.
Groups in favor of emotional support animal travel believe that it is the right of the owner to bring the support animal to provide relief and minimize negative psychological symptoms. Many of the reasons that these people travel can be extremely stressful, such as visiting an ill loved one or seeking medical treatment in a distant location. If the owner is responsible, the experience may be positive for other passengers, as evidenced during the flight of Daniel the duck.
As the prevalence of emotional support animal transportation grows, the public is waiting to see what happens. Will anything change after the incident on Delta Flight 1430? Many are hoping that legislators recognize the special issues that come with animal flight, and enact the appropriate legislation to make travel safe and comfortable for everyone.