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Bite From 'Emotional Support' Pit Bull Brings $1.1M Suit

Girl left with permanent scarring after 2017 encounter at airport
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2019 9:40 AM CST
A plane lands at Portland International Airport in Portland, Ore., on July 13, 2014.   (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)
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(Newser) – A mom wants $1.1 million from Alaska Airlines and the owner of a pit bull that bit her 5-year-old's face at Portland International Airport in 2017. It was part of a spike in incidents involving emotional support animals, as reported by various airlines. Alaska Airlines was among those to update its rules in response: As of October 2018, it permits only dogs and cats with appropriate documentation, and the animal must be kept on a leash or in a carrier. Fox News reports that's not the policy that was in place on Dec. 18, 2017, when Mirna Gonzalez alleges the airline allowed a pit bull with "vicious propensities" to be uncontained, per her lawsuit. Awaiting a flight to Texas, Gonzalez had left 5-year-old Gabriella with a 13-year-old brother while she went to get coffee. She then heard a scream and turned to see Gabriella's face covered in blood, per the Washington Post.

Gonzalez claims owner Michelle Brannan assented to her daughter's request to pet the pit bull apparently serving as an emotional support dog, which severed her tear duct and took a chunk out of her upper lip (see a graphic photo). Gabriella "required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct," per the suit filed Monday in Oregon's Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of the family from Pasco, Wash. Her attorney says Gabriella was also left with scarring. The complaint also names the Port of Portland, which requires that emotional support animals be kept in a carrier, or on a short leash if they're too large, per the Oregonian. After the attack, port police cited Brannan for failing to crate the pit bull. She reportedly carried a therapist's note referencing an emotional support animal. (Another bite came after a flight was boarded.)

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