'Emotional-Support' Dog on a Plane Bites a Little Girl's Face & People Are Heated

Emotional support dog

While a little girl was recently boarding a Southwest flight from Arizona to Oregon, an emotional support dog reportedly bit the child. According to the Chicago Tribune, a spokesperson for the airline said that after the owner told the approaching child to stay away, the dog's teeth scraped the young girl's forehead as it turned away. The unnamed girl, believed to be 6 or 7 years old, received only minor injuries. After paramedics examined the child, she was cleared to fly, but the dog and its handler did not continue on the flight.

  • The incident is causing a heated debate about kids and dogs on planes.

    According to ABC 15, Todd Rice was a passenger on the plane and tweeted about the accident, blaming Southwest for it. "@SouthwestAir flight 1904 allows a support dog on the plane, bites kid, paramedics now on plane. Why are dogs on the plane?! Never again will I fly SWA," Rice wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted.

    The Washington Post reports that Southwest responded to his tweet by writing, "We appreciate your concern and sharing this information with us, Todd. We assure you that safety is our top priority and are addressing the situation.”

    Currently, Southwest allows trained assistance and emotional-support animals on its flights, "subject to compliance with certain safety and documentation requirements." According to its website, this means that the animals may be subject to "health certificates, permits and vaccinations."

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    The picture has since gone viral and stirred a debate about whether Southwest should be changing its policies. 

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  • Some think this was the child and parents' fault: Don't let your kids pet dogs without asking.

    "The child's parent needs to keep the child from charging at animals," one user wrote. "The child is the discipline problem here, not the dog who was charged at by an unknown, unruly child."

    "The owner told the girl to not touch the dog. It's the girl and her parents' fault. No need to review policy other than to remind [passengers] that if someone says 'don't touch my dog' then DON'T TOUCH THE DOG," another added.

  • They want the airline thinking about restricting kids instead of banning dogs.

    "That dog looks harmless. Dogs > kids," another user commented.

    "I’d rather have the dog on the plane then whiny crying brats or loud mouth adults fighting and being obnoxious or like the guy the other day who had gas problem and the plane had to turn back, or the kid who screamed and cried the whole flight," one person added.

  • Others have issues with the airline's loose policy and think it's easy for passengers to lie about their dogs.

    "Too many people being on their dogs as 'service dogs' when they're not and this causes problems for those who really have a trained service dog," one person wrote. "Most handlers don't let strangers pet their service dogs because they are working so I'm surprised this lady let the child pet her dog."

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  • They believe emotional support dogs need stricter documentation and to be muzzled during flights.

    "True service dogs perform a task," someone else wrote. "This woman may have ordered her ESA paperwork online for $99 from a 'doctor' who has you fill out online form and they send the paperwork. No reason an emotional support animal shouldn't be muzzled. They're not doing any task but sitting there."

  • Many explain that people need to understand the difference between emotional support dogs and service animals.

    They think this would never happen with a service dog and gives these highly trained animals a bad stigma. "So unfair to real service dogs and their handlers," another user added.

  • Others want to point out that you shouldn't be so quick to blame the owner for his or her dog's action.

    "People don't always 'let' others pet service dogs. Some people are rude and pet without asking, others don't keep kids from petting. Owner could have been busy with luggage, etc.," one user wrote.