Airlines & the ESA Epidemic
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are pets that provide comfort and companionship to people with mental health conditions and emotional disorders. However, ESAs are not be confused with specialized service animals, such as Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) or Mobility Assistance Dogs (MAD). ESAs are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 because they are not trained to provide a specific service or behave in public spaces.
Why Are ESAs Dangerous?
Dogs, lizards, turkeys, alligators – any pet can serve as an Emotional Support Animal. And there is nothing wrong with needing a companion that can help you navigate the symptoms of depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other debilitating mental conditions. But an ESA owner needs to consider the safety of others before taking an untrained and unpredictable animal into a public space.
One of the key controversies surrounding ESAs is that people without disabilities can easily abuse the system. There are multiple websites online, including The Official ESA Registration of America, that are willing to certify pets ESAs so long as their owners complete a psychological assessment. But interested parties don’t even have to go that far; anyone can purchase ESA and service dog paraphernalia directly off Amazon. In fact, for $19.95, you can take your dog into any store, restaurant, or airport!
ESAs on Airplanes
United and other airline companies have reported a 75% increase in the number of passengers bringing Emotional Support Animals onto flights. Like service animals, ESAs can accompany their owners into airports and onto flights because they are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. Consequently, there have been countless reports of ESAs damaging property, biting flight attendants, assaulting service animals, and catastrophically injuring airport guests. Delta Air Lines was even forced to update its ESA policies to protect passengers, employees, and specialized service animals.
Last year, a reporter with the Miami Herald interviewed Taylor Garland, a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants Unions. She explained that flight attendants and other airline staff have “been bitten by some of these emotional support animals. Emotional support dogs that were clearly not trained to be on a plane have bitten real service dogs who are. There’s a security issue – any kind of chaos in the cabin, the crew has got to worry that it’s a diversionary tactics for something much worse.”
In the last three years, countless lawsuits have been filed against negligent ESA owners and airline companies. Some of the more famous cases include:
- Two years ago, a passenger was seated next to a U.S. Marine and his 50-pound Labrador. The ESA was noticeable anxious about being on a plane, which prompted the passenger to ask, “Is he going to bite me?” The dog immediately assaulted the passenger and left him with facial wounds that necessitated plastic surgery.
- In December 2017, a 5-year-old was attacked by a pit bull at Portland International Airport. The child sustained eye and facial injuries that required multiple surgeries. Her mother filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the ESA owner, Alaska Airlines, and the municipal agency Port of Portland.
- Last May, a passenger filed a claim against Delta Air Lines after an ESA attacked him on a flight. The dog allegedly lunged at the passenger and mauled his face, causing him to bleed “so profusely that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the plane.”
Attacked by an Emotional Support Animal? Pursue Compensation Today.
In Florida, a negligent pet owner can be held legally accountable for the actions of an untrained ESA, no matter the location. Contact the dog bite attorneys at The Pittman Firm, P.A. if an aggressive Emotional Support Animal has harmed you or a loved one. Our knowledgeable and experienced legal team can guide you through the claims process and help you recover damages that reflect your legal and financial objectives.
We’re available 24/7. Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A.at (850) 784-6997 to learn more about your legal rights as a dog bite victim.