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If you have a dog who is registered as an emotional support animal, then you know how important that pet is to your everyday existence. Now some airlines are reconsidering letting you fly with your support dog. But is this a violation of your civil rights?

The latest incident involves a Southwest Airlines flight to Portland, Oregon. A 6-year old girl was allegedly attacked, though that may be too strong a description, by an emotional support dog. The owner of the dog had asked that the child not approach the animal but, being a child, she did so anyway.

The airline reported that the child screamed and cried, and paramedics performed a health check before the flight continued. The girl was allegedly scraped on the forehead by the dog’s teeth.

Police are said to have interviewed both the girl’s parents and the owner of the dog, who ended up taking a later flight. A spokesperson from Southwest says that the dog and its owner were seated in the front row, and confirms that the dog owner had asked the child not to approach the animal.

Support dogs are different from guide dogs or therapy dogs in that they need no training. They tend to be used for mental health reasons instead of physical impairments. Most airlines require a note from a mental health professional confirming that a person needs an animal to travel.

Delta and United Airlines have already announced that they will soon have more stringent requirements for those passengers who need to fly with an emotional support animal. Southwest has yet to make a formal announcement on the subject.

One of the worst reported cases happened last June on a Delta flight. A 70-pound support dog attacked another passenger biting him in the face. That passenger required hospitalization. Delta’s initial plans to tighten restrictions were thwarted by advocacy groups for the disabled.

What do you think? Maybe we should just learn how to control our animals – and parents need to keep their children away from strangers’ dogs.

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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