Lawsuit Claims 'Emotional Support Animal' Mauled 5-Year-Old at Portland Airport

Lawsuit Claims 'Emotional Support Animal' Mauled 5-Year-Old at Portland Airport

A service dog sitting on an airplane seat, emotional support animal, pit bull

The mother of a young girl who was allegedly mauled by a pit bull at Portland International Airport in December 2017 has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the dog’s owner and Alaska Airlines, Fox News reported.

According to the suit, the incident occurred on December 18, 2017, while then five-year-old Gabriella Gonzalez was waiting at Gate C7 with her family to board a flight to Texas. The suit claims that Gonzalez asked permission from the animal’s owner, Michelle Brannan, to pet the dog and was bitten while petting it, leading to serious injuries.

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“As a result of the incident, Gabriella Gonzalez suffered injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and soft tissue of her face, eye, eyelid, tear duct and lip, as well as emotional trauma,” the lawsuit states. Her injuries allegedly “required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct.”

The suit argues that Brannan is liable for all damages incurred and is seeking $100,000 for past and future medical costs as well as $1 million for the girl’s pain and suffering.

Brannan reportedly told Alaska Airlines that the dog was an emotional support animal.

However, the suit claims that the woman should have known her animal had “vicious propensities” and criticizes the airline for allowing her to bring a dangerous dog into the gate area without it being secured in a crate or kennel.

Alaska Airlines unveiled a new emotional support animal policy last year, requiring all travelers flying with emotional support animals to provide health and behavioral documents along with a signed form from a doctor at least 48 hours in advance of their departure as well as complete Animal Health Advisory, Mental Health and Animal Behavior forms.

However, the airline does not require that emotional support animals be caged, only that they are leashed and under control at all times.

The lawsuit is just the latest controversy pertaining to what’s been a hot-button issue for some time now. Last year, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to crack down on what it called the “rampant abuse” of the emotional support animal designation amid disturbing reports of mid-flight disruptions involving animals attacking other passengers and defecating and urinating in the cabin.

“Passengers who attempt to evade air transport pet policies by falsely claiming their pet is an emotional support animal cause safety, health, and security issues onboard,” AFA president Sara Nelson said in a statement at the time. “The widespread abuse has led many passengers to believe all service animals onboard are fake, which creates poor treatment by other passengers toward those with a legitimate need.”

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