Citing an 84 percent increase since 2016 in reported incidents involving service and support animals, Delta Airlines has added further restrictions to their service and support animal policy and announced a ban on “pit bull type” dogs from their flights. The new restriction goes into effect on July 10.
In a statement, the airline made it clear that the tougher restrictions are the result of pet owners pushing the limits regarding service and support animals. “Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders and more,” they wrote. “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.”
“Bull type dogs” leads the list of animals banned for Delta aircraft. The vague description leaves the phrase open to interpretation, as “bull type dogs” aren’t a specific breed of dog. For instance, American Bully Daily points out that “bully breeds” include a number of dogs that have a dissimilar appearance from what is typically considered a “bull type dog,” including the Boston Terrier and French Bulldog.
Many pet owners assume Delta is targeting the distinctive look of the American Pit Bull Terrier — often dual-registered by the American Kennel Club as the American Staffordshire Terrier — and banning them on appearance rather than behavior, much like the breed has been banned in many residential neighborhoods and rental properties.
The news of the restriction also has some pet owners crossing Delta off their list of airlines they’ll fly. Taking to social media to share photos of their canine companions, they’re making it clear that man’s best friend is his dog — not an airline.
“I will never fly @Delta again,” writes Twitter user @DogmaSkeptic. “My #pitbull is everything.”
“Shame on you @Delta,” writes Twitter user @BrindleBrothers. “A dog is not defined by his breed.”
Shame on you @Delta for banning Pitbull type dogs. Aladdin & I have flown with you several times and the flight crew has always loved having him. A dog is not defined by his breed, that is discrimination, plain & simple. @LucyNolandFOX29 @DaisyFuentes @BronwenDickey @ShortyRossi pic.twitter.com/quiaMKx7cx
— Aladdin Nation (@BrindleBrothers) June 22, 2018
“Flying with @Delta is more terrifying than my pitbull,” quips Twitter user @JessGangwer.
— Jess Gangwer (@JessGangwer) June 21, 2018
“Service dogs are specially trained to help, not hurt, people,” points out Twitter user @sgtwarbucks.
Your prejudicial ban against “pit-bull type” service dogs punishes great dogs like our Apollo! Service dogs are specially trained to help, not hurt, people.
Guess we’ll take our business elsewhere#dogsofinstagram #pitbullsaregooddogs#dotherightthingDelta pic.twitter.com/4QnK0Zb2pU
— JohnnyRay (@sgtwarbucks) June 24, 2018
Some service dog owners — including Twitter user @FatBodyPolitics — have even pointed out that there may be some legal ramifications to Delta’s new policy restrictions. “I looked at the Air Carrier Access Act and it does say that Airlines can refuse accommodation for a service or emotional support animal that they deem to be unsafe,” she writes. “But it is unclear if a blanket ban would be acceptable.”
I am still super distressed about this. I looked at the Air Carrier Access Act and it does say that Airlines can refuse accommodation for a service or emotional support animal that they deem to be unsafe. But it is unclear if a blanket ban would be acceptable.
— Amanda Levitt (@FatBodyPolitics) June 22, 2018
While commercial airlines are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Air Carrier Access Act is the federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel. However, the ACAA doesn’t cover specific dog breeds, nor does it prohibit airlines from banning certain breeds.
Some pet owners, like Twitter user @missmaddylucas, who have service dogs that aren’t classified as “bull type breeds,” are taking a stand in solidarity against Delta’s decision, calling it “extremely discriminatory.”
After the extremely discriminatory decision reached by @Delta recently, Flynn and I encourage individuals to pick an airline that doesn’t discriminate against service dogs based off breed. Support our fellow service dog teams by flying a different airline! pic.twitter.com/NJeGRiVHXE
— maddy lucas (@missmaddylucas) June 23, 2018
Likewise, Matt Bershadker, the president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), issued a statement condemning Delta’s decision and said the ban, “does not achieve its stated public safety aim and spreads false and life-threatening stereotypes.” Bershadker recommends, “Delta Airlines should resist unwarranted breed prejudice and rescind its breed ban.”
— ASPCA (@ASPCA) June 21, 2018
Delta first updated its service and support animal policy in March, and the new enhancements were added on June 20. Other animals banned by Delta include snakes, rodents, goats and “animals with tusks, horns or hooves.” Per the new policy guidelines, passengers will also be limited to one emotional support animal per flight.
It remains to be seen if Delta’s new restrictions to its service and support animal policy will affect the airline’s bottom line, especially if other airlines follow their lead.