First peacocks, now pit bulls. Passengers are finding it increasingly difficult to fly with service animals, as Delta Airlines announced Wednesday that “pit bull-type dogs” will not be allowed on flights as service or emotional support animals. The new policy goes into effect on July 10th and was instituted because several airline employees have been bitten by dogs. Since 2016, there has been an 84 percent increase in reported incidents, including a particularly gruesome episode in June 2017, when a passenger was attacked by a 70-pound dog mid flight.
The term “pit bull”, however, is rather vague, as it could encompass a wide range of dog breeds that share similar characteristics. Among breeds that will likely be affected by the ban are the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier, and bull terrier.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act entitles those with disabilities to a service dog (which can be any breed), and emotional support animals can be registered to anyone with documented mental health issues, airlines are not required to comply with the ADA. Their own rules, outlined in the Air Carrier Access Act, allow for trained service and emotional support animals aboard planes, with the caveat that the animal may not pose a health or safety threat to other passengers.
Pit bull owners and advocates are enraged by the ban, arguing that it perpetuates already unfair stereotypes about the dogs.