Lawsuit: Little Girl’s “Emotional Support” Dog Mauls Airport Passenger.

A woman’s “emotional support” dog was let into an airport without a crate after just a generic letter from her therapist. Not too long afterward, a mother sued the creature for $1.1 million, alleging it had mauled her five-year-old daughter.

(Alaska Airline is in hot water after allowing an “emotional support animal” without a crate inside the airport. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Mirna Gonzales was waiting with her three children at Portland International Airport when she and her eldest daughter decided to have coffee while awaiting their Alaska Airlines flight to Texas. She left her 13-year-old son to care for her 5-year-old daughter, Gabriella Gonzales. Every parent’s nightmare followed this.

Gabriella noticed a dog seated in the waiting area with its owner, Michelle Brannan, in her mother’s short absence. Curious little Gonzales claims that her daughter asked Brannan whether the dog bites her and whether she could pet it, KVEW-TV reports. Permission granted, Gabriella started to pet the animal. The dog turned out not to be as friendly as she had hoped.

(The woman’s “emotional support” pit bull allegedly mauled 5-year-old Gabriella Gonzales. (Photo Credit: Provided)

Port of Portland police cited Brannan for not crate her dog, but she was still allowed to walk her dog to her gate. On leash. The lawsuit claims that the 48-pound American Pitt Bull mix attacked Gabriella suddenly, biting her lip and eye. When her mother got there, Brennan’s “emotional support animal” had reportedly mauled her daughter.

“There was just blood everywhere,” said Gonzalez, adding that seeing her daughter’s injuries was “horrifying.”

Gonzales and her legal team contend that the airport bears some responsibility in addition to the owner for the behavior of her dog. According to the lawsuit, Brannan was allowed to bring her uncrated dog into the airport with just a generic letter from her therapist.

“It didn’t say what kind of animal,” said Chad Stavley, the attorney representing the Gonzalez family. “It was just a generic ‘animal.’”

(The dog’s owner, Michelle Brannan, is listed in the lawsuit for bringing a dog with “vicious propensities” into the airport outside of a carrier. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

The lawsuit names Brannan and Alaska Airlines for letting the untrained and unregistered animal into the airport uncrated. The lawsuit says Brannan should have known the dog had “vicious propensities,” hence endangering Gabriella with her “emotional support animal.”

“They did nothing to protect the public and a girl got hurt, so we’re going to hold them accountable,” said Stavley.

Gonzales is claiming damages of $1.1 million for the emotional and physical suffering inflicted upon Gabriella. The youngster cut her lip and face, had a severed tear duct, and a punctured eyelid. She was taken urgently to the hospital and had surgery leaving obvious scars.

(The airlines’ website states that emotional support animals can either be leashed or crated. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

According to Port of Portland spokesman Kama Simonds, the airline mandates that all animals not classified as service dogs be housed in travel carriers. On its website, however, the airline states that for emotional support animals, a leash is a suitable replacement for a crate.

“Service animals or emotional support animals must be under the control of the owner at all times in the airport and onboard the aircraft,” the website states. “Due to safety concerns, emotional support animals must be leashed – or in an approved kennel/carrier that fits under the seat in accordance with FAA Regulations.”

Port officials may also ask visitors whether their accompanying animal is a trained service animal and, should the owner answer that it is, what service the animal offers. Simonds confirmed that although officials can challenge handlers, they have to accept whatever response they provide.

“The traveler need only answer those questions, and we’re required to accept the answer,” Simonds said in an email. She added that officials don’t ask for documentation of the animal’s training.

(Mirna Gonzales is suing for $1.1 million for physical and emotional damages to her daughter. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

The lawsuit begs major questions about whether emotional support animals should even be allowed in public facilities that otherwise forbid animals. Some say an animal should undergo the same training and registration as service animals if it is really needed for emotional support.

There is danger in this “emotional support animal” policy. Based on the word of the pet owner, it permits untrained and dangerous animals in the airport and on the planes.

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