Delta Airlines’ Ban On Pit Bull Breed Service Dogs Conflicts With ADA Policies

Pit bulls serving as service dogs are the unfortunate casualties of Delta's new policy.

Delta Airlines' ban on pit bulls appear to be a violation of ADA policies.
Natthapot Chantaraviboon / Shutterstock

Pit bulls serving as service dogs are the unfortunate casualties of Delta's new policy.

Delta Airlines has banned Pit Bull breed service dogs on its flights. The new service and support animal policy directly conflicts with the policies of the American Disabilities Act.

According to Delta’s official website, the airline has decided to uphold the ban on Pit Bull breeds due to safety concerns in which a number of employees and some passengers were bitten by dogs. As per the article, reports of incidents with service or support animals have increased by 84 percent.

Delta’s article fails to connect the increased incidents with actual service dogs of any breed, including pit bulls. The airline cites one instance in which a passenger was bitten by a 70-pound dog during a flight as proof of an incident. As a Washington Post reveals, however, the 70-pound dog was a Labrador mix and was not a service animal but an emotional support animal. The ADA does not consider emotional support animals as service animals.

Delta’s new policy opposes the ADA’s own policies on service animal breeds. According to the American Disabilities Act, any type of dog breed can be a service animal. Based on the official FAQ page dedicated to service animals and the ADA, persons with disabilities cannot be refused access to a facility on the basis of their service animal’s breed. In fact, even municipality ordinances cannot ban service dogs of specific breeds.

However, the ADA does recognize that some service dogs, regardless of breed, can get restless sometimes and upholds the service providers’ rights to ban or prevent the said animal. The exclusion of a service animal must be based on the specific animal’s perceived actions and temperament as well as the handler’s control of the animal.

There is one statement in the ADA-dedicated FAQ page that directly conflicts with Delta’s new policy.

“Under the ‘direct threat’ provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave.”

Despite the conflict, Delta does have the right to uphold its new policy. According to The Huffington Post, commercial airlines are exempt from ADA rules because they have their own set of guidelines under the Air Carrier Access Act. Under the ACAA, airlines have the right to ban service animals that may be a threat to the health and safety of passengers. How airlines decide whether a service animal or its specific breed is a threat has not really been clarified to date unknown.