Delta: Retract Your Latest Policy Banning "Pit Bull Type Dogs" from Flying
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Delta recently amended its service and support animal policy and is "no longer accepting pit bull type dogs as service or support animals," effective July 10, 2018. The notice fails to define "pit bull type dog" any further, and states one of the reasons for the policy change is a "direct result of growing safety concerns following recent incidents in which several employees were bitten." The "recent incident" they are referring to is when passenger, Marlin Jackson, was mauled by an emotional support animal aboard a Delta flight in June 2017. However, the Washington Post reports that the animal was a Labrador mix, not a pit bull terrier.
As the proud caretaker of a "pit bull type dog," I find Delta's newest policy discriminatory, highly subjective, and ignorant. Trying to exclude "pit bull type dogs" from flying is as vague as trying to exclude "people with big heads." In a study published by the National Canine Research Council, Dr. Victoria Voith concluded that visual identification of dogs, even by professionals, is often wrong. Dr. Voith found in almost 88% of adopted dogs, breeds identified by DNA analyses were not the breeds stated by the adoption agencies. The University of Florida reported similar findings when it had a research team consisting of 16 shelter staff members, including 4 veterinarians, with at least 3 years of experience, perform breed assessments of 120 dogs. Dogs lacking any genetic evidence of relevant breeds were labeled as "pit bull type dogs" 0 to 48 percent of the time. If animal experts cannot be accurate in their visual analysis of dog breeds, how can Delta enforce a policy dependent upon the general knowledge of an airline employee? People in need of service dogs and emotional support animals have enough to worry about without the added stress of having to defend or figure out whether their animal fits into a subjective category.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states, "Laws that ban particular breeds of dogs do not achieve these aims [to help reduce the risk of harm to people and other animals], and instead create the illusion, but not the reality, of enhanced public safety." If Delta wishes to increase public safety aboard their flights, they should begin by examining how animal passengers are secured in cabins and training their staff to respond to problematic situations effectively, not include a discriminatory blanket-statement ostracizing something based on its physical appearance.
Our family dog, Biggie, the Notorious D.O.G., is a rescued stray who is smart, affectionate, and outright goofy. On behalf of Biggie, and all of the other misunderstood "pit bull type dogs" out there, shame on you, Delta.
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