A Southwest Airlines passenger's emotional support dog had to be removed from a flight to Portland, Oregon on Wednesday after the dog bit a child's face.
When the young passenger approached the dog, the animal's "teeth scraped" the child's forehead and caused a minor injury, a Southwest spokesperson told The Independent. Newsweek has reached out to the airline for comment.
The dog and its owner remained at the takeoff location in Phoenix after being taken off the plane, the report stated. An EMT evaluated the child and cleared the passenger to fly to its destination.
The incident comes after a slew of airlines have tightened restrictions on emotional support dogs, which are able to ride in the plane's cabin with passengers provided the owner carries proper paperwork from a doctor and pays an additional fee. Companion pets are sometimes recommended for people who struggle with PTSD or anxiety disorders.
In recent years, the number of passengers riding with support animals has mushroomed. Last year, for example, passengers flying on United Airlines declared 76,000 animals as “emotional support animals,” a sharp increase from 43,000 in 2016, a United spokesperson told USA Today.
Skeptics have argued that the increase is due to passengers attempting to skirt the airlines rules about animal weight and breed restrictions. As it stands, most birds, cats and dogs are approved to fly in the cabin if they are under 20 pounds and can fit in a carrier bag small enough to fit in under the seat, regardless of their medical necessity.
Proponents of animal-friendly flights have argued that sending crated animals into the baggage compartment—where the larger animals typically ride—for long flights is inhumane and cruel; scores of animals die each year while in the baggage compartment, the Department of Transportation reported. The Humane Society of the United States also discourages flying with pets in the cargo load.
Earlier this month, Delta and United Airlines also took steps to limit the type of animal that can be considered an emotional support companion and also made adjustments to the type of documentation they require owners to provide, including paperwork that confirms the animal can be well-behaved outside a crate.
The narrowed guidelines come after a slew of bizarre incidents, including one woman attempting to fly on a plane with her "emotional support peacock." and a U.S. Airlines passenger riding with a 300 lbs pig that defecated on the plane. The new rules will go into effect on March 1.
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