Friday, 23 February 2018

Girl injured by dog during boarding a Southwest Airlines aircraft

It seems there is hardly a week going by these days without some sort of horror story about animals flying in the cabin of some airlines in the USA. 

Sometimes its more unusual critters like snakes, spiders and peacocks in the news, although not hamsters - Spirit Airlines told one passenger to flush one of those down the toilet.  This week it is a more common pet, usually mans best friend, that is making the news after it apparently injured a fellow passenger - a little girl of about six or so years of age.

The incident took place on a Southwest Airlines plane as the flight was boarding at Phoenix on Thursday. A Southwest spokesperson said the dog’s teeth “scraped a child’s forehead” and paramedics checked the girl, who appeared to be 6 or 7 years old. The spokesperson went on to report that the dog was in the plane’s first row of seats with its owner, who claims to have warned the little girl not to approach his dog.

Police interviewed the girl’s family and the dog’s owner. The family decided to remain on the plane, while the dog and its owner left and took a later flight. 

It's become so common for pet animals to be allowed on US flights recently and unlike service animals such as guide dogs, these so-called support animals do not need to have any training and many airlines don't even need documentary proof the animal has been vaccinated or inoculated from diseases and illnesses. However, some airlines do require passengers to provide a medical professional’s note explaining why they need the animal to travel.  At the moment, that medical professional doesn't need to be a doctor, it could be a mental health practitioner or a counsellor or therapist of some kind and there are even companies online that will provide you with a letter for a fee without the need for any kind of assessment. 

Of course, people taking these support animals are asked to keep the animal under control, well behaved and off the furniture in lounges and gates. However, the rise in complaints from frequent flyers over 'support' animals allowed to do whatever they wanted in lounges and on aircraft has risen by nearly 500% in the last year alone.  
This latest case will further ignite the debate going on about service and support animals in airline cabins in the US.  Earlier this week Delta airlines have recently backed down from increased restrictions on animal carriage after a campaign by disabled organisations, although they will need slightly more documentation from next week.

Many airlines will allow small animals in the cabin for a fee, often around $125 yet service and support animals are carried free of charge, which is perhaps another reason why so many people are cheating the airlines and pretending their beloved pets are support animals to get them on the flight free. 

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