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Lawsuits Filed After Airplane Passengers are Attacked by Emotional-Support Animals

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Each year, over four million dog attacks take place in the United States. The American Humane Society (AHS) reports that there are approximately 4.7 million dog attacks that take place each year with 800,000 of the attacks requiring medical attention. Half of the attacks are on children and nearly 386,000 of those injured require emergency services. Texas is the leading state in the number of fatal dog attacks. This year alone, there have been five reported deaths in Texas involving a vicious dog attack. Several more attacks resulting in serious injuries have also been reported.

Dog bite victims routinely file lawsuits against dog owners and caretakers, landlords, and property management companies. However, as the number of emotional-support dogs in airports and on airplanes continues to rise, a new wave of lawsuits against airline companies and airports is expected. In fact, this past year, at least two lawsuits have been filed after victims were attacked by fellow passengers' emotional-support dogs. For example, in March of 2019, the mother of a 5-year-old child who was mauled by an unconfined emotional support dog at the Portland International Airport in December 2017 filed suit against the dog's owner, the Port of Portland, and Alaska Airlines. The lawsuit alleges that the minor child and her family were waiting to board their flight when the minor was attacked by a fellow passenger's emotional support dog, resulting in severe injuries which required surgical repair. According to the lawsuit, the dog was not a trained or registered service animal, nor was there any sort of restraint or muzzle on it. The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants violated an airport rule requiring animals to be contained in a crate, kennel, or another approved container.

In May of 2019, another man filed a lawsuit after he was attacked by a fellow passenger's emotional support dog while on board a Delta flight. The lawsuit was filed against both the dog's owner and Delta Airlines. According to the lawsuit, the victim had just taken his seat when the dog, who was sitting on the lap of the passenger seated next to him, lunged for his face. The victim sustained puncture wounds which required 28 stitches. Among other allegations, the lawsuit alleges that Delta failed to verify that the dog was trained or met the requirements of a service animal. The alleged attacks are two of numerous reports in the past few years of emotional-support animals causing trouble for airline passengers ranging from urination and defecation to biting. The incidents have pushed airlines and airports to crack down on which animals they will allow on planes.

If you or someone you know has been injured or attacked by a dog, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz by calling 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1‑800-870-9584.

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