Delta Air Lines will no longer allow “pit bull type dogs” as service or support animals on its flights, the air carrier announced Wednesday.
The new policy, which is set to go into effect July 10, also limits passengers to one service or support animal per flight.
The new rules were put in place because several employees have been bitten by dogs, Delta said, adding that there has been an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals since 2016. The airline also cited a widely reported incident from June 2017 in which a passenger was attacked “by a 70-pound dog” during a flight, but it failed to note that the dog involved was a Labrador mix.
The airline neglected to explicitly define what it considers a “pit bull type dog” or how it would identify such a dog.
The term “pit bull” on its own generally does not refer to one specific dog breed. Rather, it’s a general, and somewhat subjective, term that can refer to several breeds and mixed breeds that share similar physical characteristics. Breeds that are often labeled as “pit bull” include the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier and bull terrier, and dogs that resemble those breeds.
The new policy could make life more difficult for people with disabilities who may rely on a service dog that resembles a pit bull in order to fully participate in everyday life.
Generally, federal protections for people who use service animals are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA defines a service animal as an animal trained to do a specific task to assist a person with a disability. It expressly states that a dog of any breed can be a service dog.
In contrast, emotional support animals ― meaning animals that provide comfort to a person with a disability or mental health issue through support and companionship ― are not considered service animals under the ADA.
Commercial airlines do not have to comply with the ADA, however. They have their own set of rules outlined in the Air Carrier Access Act. Under the ACAA, a service animal is defined as “any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support,” according to the Department of Transportation. Additionally, the ACAA allows airlines to prohibit service animals that “pose a threat to the health or safety of other passengers” or that may cause a disruption in cabin service.
Many pit bull owners and advocates say the ban promotes unfair stereotypes about the dogs.
Read their thoughts below: