As debate continues over emotional support animals onboard airplanes, we must ask ourselves this question: how can we ensure a dog doesn’t attack a child onboard a plane?
That’s exactly what happened onboard a Southwest Airlines flight on Wednesday evening. The flight was traveling from Phoenix to Portland, Oregon. During boarding, a six year old girl approached an emotional support dog across the aisle from her.
Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford told the Washington Post the owner of the dog told the child not to approach it. But she did, and the dog bit her.
Initial reports indicate a support dog’s teeth scraped a child’s forehead as the young passenger approached the animal, causing a minor injury. EMTs evaluated the child, who was cleared to continue on the flight. The dog and its owner remained in Phoenix as the aircraft departed approximately 20 minutes behind schedule. As always, the safety of our Customers is our highest priority.
This is the dog:
You may think, well…the owner told the girl not to approach the dog. She got what she had coming to her…
Southwest emotional support animal guidelines require that a dog be well-behaved:
Service and emotional support animals must be trained to behave in a public setting. If an animal behaves poorly, it may be denied boarding.
If your dog bites people who approach it, it is not trained to behave in a public setting.
It’s that simple.
But what is not so simple is how to deal with this recurring problem.
I’ll admit it. Every story likes this makes stronger my conviction that emotional support animals should be prohibited. That’s my bias.
But I truly want to be sensitive and not sensationalize news like every airline crash (even though commercial air travel remains far and away the safest way to travel). I know there are veterans scarred by war who use emotional support animals to help their PTSD. I know there are many others young and old who use these animals honestly and as they were intended.
But something needs to change. An animal biting another passenger is simply unacceptable. It starts with better paperwork. Where it ends? We’ll see.