Delta Airlines made the decision to deny access to a service dog because she looked like a pit bull, delaying a 2-year old girl’s potentially lifesaving match with the highly trained seizure alert dog.
In 2018, Delta Airlines released updated rules and restrictions for flying with service dogs and emotional support animals which included a a ban on any “pit bull type” dogs either as emotional support animals or as legitimate service dogs flying with a disabled handler. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits breed discrimination of service dogs, commercial airlines are not required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Instead, they follow guidelines set forth by the Air Carrier Access Act, a Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel.
But, according to the rescue agency that donated Daisy, a 3-year old highly trained seizure alert dog, with Mila, a 2-year old girl born with Hydrocephalus and later diagnosed with epilepsy, while the dog may have features similar to a pit bull, she is actually a Boxer/ Bulldog mix.
Kim Biggerstaff was tasked with arranging transportation from the rescue organization in California to Mila and her family in Phoneix. While booking the Delta flight, Daisy was turned away.
“I said that’s discrimination. That’s illegal. They said ‘no, we have lawyers on standby. We wouldn’t do this if there were any legal issues that could arouse.’ I said that’s unfair. This is an actual, trained service dog. Thousands of dollars went into this dog in training and time and energy, and this dog has been working in her field for three years, Never had an issue.”
Delta released the following statement to Fox10: “In 2018, Delta tightened its policies on Emotional Support Animals by requiring a “confirmation of animal training” form, as well as other official documentation. The airline also banned pit bulls and animals under four months of age as service or support animals.”
So, because Daisy, a Boxer/Bulldog mix, had physical characteristics similar to “pit bulls,” she was denied access. Further complicating the matter is Delta’s lack of a definition of what exactly is a “pit bull type” dog. Traditionally, “Pit Bull” is a broad term used to describe breeds including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, or mixed-breed and other dogs having physical characteristics common to these breeds.
While the rescue and the family determine whether or not to pursue legal action, or if any recourse is even possible, Biggerstaff has since booked an alternate flight on Southwest Airlines to deliver the Daisy to Mila.