NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Central Indiana animal advocates slammed a controversial service animal policy announced by Delta Air Lines, calling the company’s decision to ban “pit bull-type dogs” ineffective, illogical and ill-informed.
The focus on breed fails to address widespread emotional support and service animal fraud, the Hamilton County Humane Society said, but could set a precedent for other airlines seeking to crack down on critters in plane cabins.
Delta announced its new policy following incidents involving emotional support dogs – but not certified service dogs – described as pit bulls.
“We must err on the side of safety,” company spokesman Michael Thomas said in a statement to News 8. “Recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk – and we can’t take that gamble on employees or customers.”
The move to restrict service animals because of issues caused by support animals “doesn’t make sense,” according to Rebecca Stevens, the CEO and President of the Hamilton County Humane Society.
“I’m not aware of a single actual service dog that has been involved in any aggressive incident,” she said. “Service dogs of all breeds are like the Navy SEALs of dogs. They undergo extensive training to handle the stress of flying and serve a specific purpose for their human… Meanwhile, any breed of support dog [without proper training] could act out and bite.”
Emotional support animals do not require the specialized training necessary for service animal certification. A typical service dog often trains for 12 to 18 months at a cost of more than $18,000, while an emotional support dog can fly as an approved cabin companion with little more than a letter from a psychiatrist and a $50 vest, according to Stevens.
“We need airlines to invest in proper regulation,” she told News 8. “They need a database where trainers and certified animals can be crosschecked and verified, not some knee-jerk reaction that makes things worse for dogs that have never been scientifically proven to be more aggressive.”
Delta’s pit bull ban will go into effect July 10, the airline said.