A Support Dog Injures Child During Boarding on Southwest Airlines Flight
A child was injured by an emotional support dog while boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix on Wednesday February 17. The young girl, who was about 6 or 7 years old, suffered minor injuries, according to Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Spokeswoman Melissa Ford said the dog was in the plane's first row of seats with its owner, who said he warned the girl not to approach his dog. In a statement, Southwest said the dog’s teeth “scraped a child’s forehead.”
The incident, which occurred on Southwest flight 1904 headed to Portland, Oregon (PDX), was first reported by another passenger during boarding. Todd Rice tweeted that the support dog bit a girl as she approached it, and that she screamed and cried.
The girl was cleared by paramedics to continue on the flight, and she and her family remained on the flight, according to the Seattle Times. The dog and its owner remained in Phoenix and boarded a later flight.
Federal law permits passengers to travel with a service or support animal as long as they don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of others on board. In addition, the animal cannot obstruct the aisle or any area that would be used for an emergency evacuation. However, unlike service animals, support animals do not need training. Nonetheless, passengers can be asked to show a medical professional’s note explaining why they need the animal to travel.
This incident comes in the midst of a debate over the growing number of emotional support animals on planes. Earlier this year, Delta and United announced stricter policies regarding emotional and support animals after more incidents and complaints. Starting March 1, Delta Airlines and United Airlines will require additional documents for all passengers traveling with a support or service animal.
Delta’s decision to restrict service animals and emotional support animals follows an 84% increase of reported incidents involving animals. The airline will also deny non-traditional service animals such as turkeys or ducks on board starting March 1.
As of now, Southwest does require documentation for emotional support animals that must be presented to a Southwest employee prior to boarding. Southwest's website states: “Trained assistance animals and emotional support animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations. Please note trained assistance and emotional support animals may be subject to additional governmental laws and regulations at the destination, including but not limited to, health certificates, permits and vaccinations required by the country, state or territory from and/or to which the animal is being transported."