Southwest Airlines is reviewing its policies on emotional support and service animals after a young girl was bitten on the forehead on one of its planes.
The dog was in the first row of seats against a bulkhead when the girl, about 6 years old, approached it after the owner had asked her to stay back, said Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford. The dog’s teeth “scraped” the girl’s forehead as it turned away, breaking the skin and causing a minor injury, she said.
Southwest won’t “immediately” be changing its animal policies “because we want to do it right” after reviewing the issue, Ford said. Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. this year said they would require more documentation for support or service animals because of a surge in incidents involving them.
The girl was boarding Southwest Flight 1904 Wednesday from Phoenix to Portland when she was bitten by the dog identified as an “emotional support” animal. She was examined by emergency medical workers and police interviewed both the dog owner and the girl’s family before the flight was cleared to take off. The animal and its owner stayed in Phoenix.
On its website, Southwest says service and emotional support animals must be trained to behave in a public setting, and can be denied boarding “if an animal behaves poorly.” While the policies don’t specifically require documentation, Southwest employees can “ask some fact-finding questions to ascertain what assistance the animal provides,” according to the website.