As one of the largest animal welfare organizations in Georgia dedicated to saving the lives of thousands of shelter pets each year, LifeLine Animal Project strongly opposes the recent policy change of Delta Airlines to ban all "pit bull type dogs" from the list of acceptable service and support animals on Delta flights. Delta has cited its commitment to “Safety first” as the driving force in this decision.
Like Delta, LifeLine is an organization strongly devoted to the safety and welfare of our community which includes the entire population of Atlanta’s shelter animals and the people who care for them. LifeLine is urging Delta to reconsider this limited and highly focused ban by redirecting their efforts in ways that demonstrate a deeper consideration of the actual safety issues —those involving the regulations, training and behavioral evaluation of the animals customers are boarding on aircrafts—and the larger consequences of establishing breed restrictions.
LifeLine does not condone the taking advantage of service or emotional support animal regulations to relax or avoid travel or housing restrictions for individuals’ convenience or personal preferences. Furthermore, LifeLine does not support putting any animal—be it a service animal, emotional support animal, or personal pet—in any situation for which it is not physically or emotionally fit or prepared or where its presence is likely to endanger itself or others.
We know firsthand that the actual, physical circumstances in which animals are placed—way beyond their appearance or the genetic attributes they possess— shape and inform their situational behaviors. LifeLine brings extensive experience with tens of thousands of shelter animals annually, the majority of whom would likely fall into the categorization of “pit bull type dogs” and who certainly are experiencing circumstances that are some of the most stressful known to domesticated animals.
Rather than relying on a demonstrated behavior or proven aptitude for unrestricted travel as its main criterion, Delta’s use of an animal’s physical appearance to predict its safety in the cabin is not only highly ineffective and unproductive, but it does not address the deeper issue. The safety of all passengers and their service animals requires a policy shift that involves improving training, certification, and regulation of animals approved for transport.
We urge Delta to undertake a more scientific and rational approach when considering its policy changes. Specifically, we urge Delta to be purposeful in drafting policies that directly and meaningfully address safety and liability issues without creating unnecessary and undue harm in the process to an already misunderstood and misrepresented population.
For the greater good of both the animals we care for and the humans who rely on them, we can all do better. LifeLine invites Delta to do this good work together.