A mother has filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of her 5-year-old daughter who she said was bitten when she attempted to pet an emotional support pit bull at Portland International Airport after getting the dog owner’s permission to do so. According to a report in The Washington Post, the girl’s mother Mirna Gonzalez said she had stepped away from Gate C7 to buy coffee on Dec. 18, 2017, when she heard her daughter scream. She ran back and saw her daughter Gabriella’s face covered in blood.
Increase in Injuries and Incidents
The $1.1 million lawsuit names the dog’s owner, Alaska Airlines and the municipal agency Port of Portland as defendants, accusing them of negligence because the dog was allowed through the airport without being placed in a crate. The Post reports that this traumatic dog attack is just one of a number of high-profile allegations of bad support-animal behavior at airports. Several airlines and the federal government have rushed to respond to a growing number of complaints ranging from poor potty training to attacks and injuries.
These types of injuries have increased over the past two years triggering a discussion about how animals should be dealt with during travel. Delta instituted a new rule requiring additional documentation for emotional support animals in its cabins after a June 2017 incident when a dog it a man in the face as he sat down in his window seat on a Delta flight leaving Atlanta. That passenger had to get 28 stitches.
In February 2018, another emotional support dog attacked a little girl on a Southwest flight leaving Phoenix. In Gabriella’s case, her family says she had to undergo tear duct surgery leaving her with permanent scars. The pit bull attack severed her tear duct and caused her upper lip to be disfigured. The girl also developed a fear of airports as well as a fear of petting dogs.
There is also the question of whether the so-called emotional support dogs are actually legitimate. Most airlines now require documentation such as a letter from the passenger’s doctor stating why they require such support and a letter from the animal’s vet certifying its health.
If You Have Been Injured
If you have been injured by an emotional support animal on a flight or at an airport, you may be able to seek compensation from the dog owner, airport authority and/or airline for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, rehabilitation, cost of counseling and cosmetic surgery, and pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced dog bite lawyer will be able to advice you regarding your legal rights and options, and help you secure maximum compensation for your tremendous losses.