ATLANTA – Delta Air Lines says it no longer allows passengers to fly with "pit bull type" dogs as service or companion animals, a policy that is criticized by groups who train service dogs and people use them.
The Atlanta-based airline describes its ban as "improving" its pet policy in passenger areas. Delta will also limit travelers to a single emotional support animal per flight. The changes announced this week will come into force on 10th July.
"It's a bit crazy because Delta is my favorite airline flying with my service dog," said Fiona Gilbert of the San Francisco area, who said she had about 300,000 miles with her pit bull-like dog last year Delta flew. Koda.
Gilbert has a degenerative neurological disorder, and Koda can sense when she might get a seizure and then get help when needed, she said.
"He's basically my alarm system," she said. I trust him more than I trust myself when it comes to not feeling well. He is trained to get help when I need it. Koda and I are a team ̵
Now Gilbert has planned 20 trips with Delta, which will take place later this year and tries to find out what to do.
Delta said its ban on pit bull-type dogs responds to "growing security concerns," After several employees were bitten, the airline said in a statement.
"We must be wrong on the safety side," Delta said in a statement on Friday. "Last week, two Delta employees were assisting with a pit bull been bitten. We strained our decision to expand the ban on animal service because we knew that some customers had legitimate needs. Bulldogs posed as both service animals and companion animals pose a potential security risk.
The bite occurred during the boarding process for Delta Flight 295 from Atlanta to Narita, Japan, the airline said.
But the ban leads to a backlash in social media and is criticized by several groups of animals.  Delta "should oppose unjustified breeding prejudice and lift its racial ban," said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, on Thursday in a statement.
Finding out which dogs fall into politics could be a challenge
"Pitbull is an arbitrary label – there is no standard definition of what makes a dog a pit bull," said Regina Lizik, communication and fundraising manager of the Animal Farm Foundation in Bangall, New York, the service dogs for Gilbert's Pit Bull was trained there.
"It's about this individual Dog and his ability to do this job, "said Lizik. "All dogs are individuals."
Delta's statement states that "pit bull type" dogs are banned, but lists "Bull type dogs" on its online list of banned animals, including reptiles, spiders and goats.
Gilbert said she understands Deltas desire to protect his employees. She said she supported the airline in March when it announced new guidelines for livestock. Representatives of Delta and United said back then that they had noticed a sharp increase in the number of companion animals, and some passengers brought all kinds of animals on board.
"The irony is that I switched the airlines to Delta when I got a service dog because they have the nicest flight attendants, and they are a wonderful company to fly with," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said that in the past she had received no complaints about coda that had curled up on her Delta flights. Service dogs like Koda are "much polite and less disturbing than some passengers I've been on planes with," she said.
"Most people do not even know there's a 75-pound dog sitting there until we get up to go," she added.