According to the airport’s rules, the pit bull should have been in a carrier.
As KATU reports, in December 2017, 5-year-old Gabriella Gonzalez was at Portland International Airport with her family, waiting to board a flight. That’s when another passenger showed up with a dog.
According to the Oregonian, Gabriella’s mother and sister had gone to get coffee, leaving the girl in the gate waiting area with her 13-year-old brother. When Michelle Brannan arrived with her emotional support animal, a pit bull, Gabriella asked for her permission to pet the dog.
Brannan gave her consent. But when the young girl went to pet the animal, it allegedly attacked her, biting her face and causing numerous cuts and injuries. According to the family’s attorney, Gabriella suffered a punctured eyelid, severed tear duct, facial lacerations, and a torn lip. She had to undergo surgery and still has scars from the attack.
Gabriella’s mother, Mirna, has since filed a lawsuit on behalf of her daughter. She is suing Brannan, Alaska Airlines, and the Portland Airport for $1.1 million.
The lawsuit claims Brannan should have known about her dog’s, “vicious propensities.” It says that the airport is at fault for allowing a dangerous animal in without a carrier. And it claims that the airline should not have allowed the pit bull into the gate area because it wasn’t confined and wasn’t a trained service animal.
Alaska Airlines declined to comment on the pending litigation, but its website states that emotional support animals fly free and must be leashed or in a carrier. As the woman who unsuccessfully tried to fly with an emotional support peacock learned, airlines can set higher requirements for emotional support animals on their flights.
A 5-year-old girl was attacked by an emotional support dog at @flypdx about a year ago, according to a new lawsuit. The family lawyer says her injuries "required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct." #LiveOnK2 pic.twitter.com/rijyCqxdcA
— Keaton Thomas (@keaton_thomas) February 27, 2019
Portland International Airport requires emotional support animals to be kept in carriers except in the pet relief area. Animals that don’t fit in carriers have to be kept on a leash that extends no more than three feet. However, the airport police later cited Brannan for not having the dog in a carrier, suggesting that the animal was not too big.
The attorney for Gabriella told the Oregonian that Brannan was carrying a form letter from her therapist, designating her dog as an “emotional support animal”:
“It didn’t say what kind of animal. It was just a generic ‘animal.'”
A spokesperson for the Port of Portland told the Oregonian that she could not comment on the case. However, she said port officials can ask if an animal is a service animal and what service it provides, but don’t ask for documentation of the animal’s training:
“The traveler need only answer those questions, and we’re required to accept the answer.”