At times it is difficult to balance the needs of people who rely on emotional support animals in areas such as Georgia and the safety of those around them. The Portland International Airport in Oregon has recently had to revise its regulations in regard to ESAs in an attempt to strike a better balance after an incident in December 2017 in which an emotional support pit bull allegedly attacked a 5-year-old girl. The girl's mother recently filed a lawsuit against the company that manages the airport, the dog's owner and the airline on which she was traveling, seeking damages in the amount of $1.1 million.
The dog owner was unavailable for comment. The airline refused to speak specifically about pending litigation but did cite its recently revised regulations in regard to emotional support animals, stating that the owners must carry them or keep them on a leash of 3 feet or less if they do not fit in a pet carrier.
According to the lawsuit, the pit bull was not a trained or registered service animal, nor was there reportedly any sort of restraint or muzzle on it. The lawsuit goes on to allege that the dog owner put others at risk by bringing the dog to the airport and should have known that it had vicious propensities and was displaying aggressive and threatening behavior at the time of the alleged attack.
Medical expenses for the 5-year-old girl involved in the incident so far reportedly amount to $100,000. The lawsuit alleges that she has had to have surgery to repair her tear duct and also sustained injuries to facial structures including bone, nerves, muscles and tendons.
Emotional support animals occupy something of a gray legal area, but pet owners are typically responsible for the behavior of the creatures in their care. Those who have suffered an injury due to another's negligence may find it helpful to contact an attorney.