Delta is putting into place more restrictions on the animals that fly with the airline's passengers.
On top of the Atlanta-based airline's requirements for documentation for all service and support animals, which went into effect in March, now certain dog breeds will be banned, according to a news release.
Effective July 10, Delta will no longer allow "pit bull type dogs" on board its flights as either service animals or support animals. Starting the same date, passengers will be limited to one service or support animal apiece, as well, the release states.
"The new requirements support Delta's top priority of ensuring safety for its customers and employees," it continues, while also noting an "84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals since 2016, including urination/defecation" and biting.
That includes a widely reported incident aboard a Delta flight at Atlanta's Harsfield International Airport in June 2017, when a "chocolate lab pointer mix," an emotional support dog flying with an ex-marine, attacked the man sitting next to the marine, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Marlin Jackson, of Daphne, Ala., sued Delta after the 70-pound-dog bit him multiple times in the face, the suit says.
Delta does not, however, list the specific breeds that will fall under the new policy, though, describing them just as "Bull type dogs" on the company's list of prohibited service and support animals, which also includes hedgehogs, snakes, spiders, Sugar gliders and goats. In January, a woman tried to board a United Airlines flight with what she called her "emotional support peacock."
"Pit bull" is not actually a breed, but a descriptor of a handful of recognized dog breeds including the Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier and American staffordshire terrier, according to the American Kennel Club.
That potential for confusion, along with a perception among animal lovers that "pit bull type dogs" get labeled as "dangerous" unfairly, is prompting backlash on social media.
Matt Bershadker, the CEO of the ASPCA, said in a tweet that the policy spreads "false and life-threatening stereotypes."
"A lab can be aggressive so ban them [too]!" another user tweeted. "What about a German Shepherd?"
MIchelle Parker, owner of the Spencer Kennel in O'Fallon, Ill., told the Belleville News-Democrat that bull terrier breeds have historically been used and bred as "nanny dogs," family-owned dogs and protectors of children that routinely allow kids to sit on them, pull their ears or otherwise bother them without reacting.
"I know that in the media it is kind of a conception that pit bulls are more dangerous that other breeds," Lauren Ausfieker, a veterinarian in Belleville, Ill., told the newspaper. "Any dog can bite if they feel threatened. They have different responses, just like people."