Weekly ESA News Report March 6th: Alaska Airlines $1.1 Million ESA Lawsuit & More

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emotional support dog pitbull sadThis week in ESA news, a lawsuit is filed as a 5-year old suffered injuries at the hands of a support dog, and Oklahoma University officially bans students from bringing ESAs to class. Read on to see what went down in both instances, and how it could affect you and your emotional support animal (ESA).

ESA Lawsuit: 5-Year Old ‘Mauled’ By ESA – Mother Suing for Over $1,000,000

An angry mother has brought a lawsuit against the owner of an ESA after she claims her 5-year old daughter was mauled in a Portland airport in 2017.

Mirna Gonzalez is seeking $100,000 for past and future medical costs and $1.1 million for the child’s pain and suffering, on behalf of her daughter Gabriella Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says that the incident occurred while waiting for a flight to Texas when the owner of the dog, Michelle Brannan, entered the waiting area with a pit bull being used as an ESA. Her daughter allegedly gained permission to pet the dog, which then bit her, causing serious damage to her face.

“As a result of the incident, Gabriella Gonzalez suffered injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and soft tissue of her face, eye, eyelid, tear duct and lip, as well as emotional trauma,” the lawsuit says, also detailing that Gabriella was left with permanent scarring and “required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct, and has incurred medical expenses and will incur future medical expenses.”

The lawsuit is currently in progress, so there was no response from the airline involved in the incident, Alaska airlines.

emotional support dog pit bull behind bars

New Policy in Place Says OU Students May Not Take ESAs to Class

While emotional support animals are allowed in Oklahoma University’s residences, they are not welcome in classrooms. Official University policy says that with approval, ESAs may accompany their owners in housing, however they are not permitted in public spaces of the university, making it difficult for students who rely on the support of their pets to go to class. On the other hand, some students have used their smarts to work around OU’s policy, by contacting professors personally to work out a compromise. Student Gabi Thompson did just this.

“[My professors] said it was fine as long as she wasn’t a distraction,” Thompson said. “I also went in after my classes and talked to my professors and introduced Luna and they said that they didn’t even know she was there and that everything was fine. So, I haven’t really had any issues bringing her.”

While many University policies do not allow animals in class, it is always worth checking with individual professors in order to see if it is possible to have your ESA support you during class.

chihuahua reading a book

CertaPet’s 2 Cents On This Week’s News

We cannot stress this enough: ESAs do not officially require any training, but they really need to be well trained and socialized if you want to make use of the laws that protect ESAs. The fact that it was a pit bull should not detract from the fact that any dog bite or aggression, even from a Chihuahua, is not OK. No pet or emotional support animal should put anyone’s life in danger.

Unless you trust that your ESA is 100% confident and comfortable with strangers, other animals, and pets, you need to take safety precautions.

As for ESAs not being allowed in classes: ESAs are not service animals. Service animals undergo extensive training and know how to behave in public. In the case of Luna the ESA, she was clearly calm and obedient, and therefore not a distraction. The onus is on ESA owners to take responsibility for their ESAs and their actions.

If you do not have an ESA, it’s simple to take our free online 5-minute pre-screening, and if your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). You could then have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs, with no fuss.

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