- An emotional support dog bit a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight Monday.
- The incident happened on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Greensboro, North Carolina.
- The flight attendant required five stitches to treat the bite.
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A flight attendant was bitten by a passenger’s emotional support dog on Monday, requiring a trip to the hospital and five stitches after the plane landed.
The episode occurred Monday on an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Greensboro, North Carolina, according to a report from Dallas News, which first reported the story.
The episode began when the passenger with the emotional support dog became ill during the flight. The flight attendant reached over into the seat-back to help the passenger find the air sickness bag, when the dog apparently felt threatened by the flight attendant and bit him.
The Envoy Air flight attendant – Envoy a regional carrier that operates flights on behalf of American – was initially examined in Greensboro, and cleared to work the return flight to Dallas-Fort Worth. After arriving back in Dallas, however, it was determined he needed stitches for the injury.
American was not able to confirm what kind of dog it was.
The Envoy Air flight attendant’s union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), called on the Department of Transportation to set standards for emotional support animals to prevent untrained pets from causing issues:
What happened on yesterday’s American Airlines flight is completely unacceptable and inexcusable. For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals. We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes. This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.
The incident is the latest in a series of incidents involving emotional support animals, a source of contention between pet-loving passengers and airlines, as well as other passengers.
Emotional support animals are different from certified from service animals – the latter are typically trained according to a professional standard and are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA). Emotional support animals, however, are typically not certified and are loosely defined by passengers and doctors.
Critics have accused passengers of using the “emotional support animal” moniker as a way to bring oversized pets into airplane cabins or circumvent in-cabin pet fees. Owners, however, say that the pets help with conditions like anxiety and PTSD, despite not being certified as therapy animals.
Airlines have updated their policies regarding emotional support animals in recent months and years, often requiring documentation or advance notice before allowing them on board.
While American doesn’t require documentation from a passenger’s doctor, it does require a veterinary health form, and restricts emotional support animals to dogs or cats. The restriction came following episodes of people bringing animals like peacocks, snakes, ducks, and more.