Pit bulls are a dog breed that have been controversial for decades. Unfortunately, they are too often involved in sad and unfortunate situations. There is a debate going on as to whether the dogs are predisposed to violent behavior naturally or are conditioned to it through bad treatment. This is made even more sad by the fact that many pit bulls are sweet creatures that wouldn’t hurt a fly. These good dogs are given a bad name by people who mistreat and don’t train their dogs. Critics argue that it is impossible to fully insulate a pit bull from their violent nature. This ultimately comes down to the classic nature vs. nurture arguments that are popular in all of the social sciences.
Delta threw itself into this controversy in June of 2018 when it announced a ban of pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs. This was a provocative move that drew the ire of advocates and owners alike. It was now impossible for these dogs to make their way onto Delta flights. Even more controversial was to ban the use of service pit bulls, a move that would go on to face plenty of legal resistance. The ban was put into place after several Delta employees were bitten on the job by aggressive pit bulls. This convinced the executives at Delta that the ban was best for employee safety, not to mention innocent bystanders. People on both sides were convinced that they were right.
Though many dog owners were heartbroken, there are several anti-pit bull establishments that cheered the move. Some argue that pit bulls were bred to be aggressive, therefore we can’t be surprised when they misbehave. These types of dogs were great for hunting and other adventures in earlier times of society. However, this utility has largely worn off. The same characteristics of the hunting dogs still remain to this day. Some of these characteristics are a strong jaw and ability to find and attack prey. In random pit bull attacks these features are a misfiring of systems that were designed to help and protect humans. It is also the case that much of the bad behavior is from dogs that are not raised or treated well. This leads to the important question of who is to blame for pit bull attacks.
Unfortunately, it does seem like some of these attacks are random. Pit bulls are that raised well are also capable of misbehavior. This is part of the reason that Delta put the ban in place initially. They didn’t want to play guessing games as to which dogs would be suitable for their private spaces. The ban was motivated by safety, but it also provided Delta an ability to stand up for workers and passengers. While it was a controversial public relations move, there were many people that were pleased Delta took the position it did. Many do not enjoy sharing tight spaces with unruly or aggressive dogs. This is clearly going to be a contentious issue for the foreseeable future.
There are reasons to believe that Delta is concerned with more than just dog attacks. The airline noted that there had been a significant spike in the inappropriate activity of service animals on flights since 2016. This could mean that less qualified service animals are getting a pass when they otherwise shouldn’t be. These types of incidents include urinating and defecating on the flight. These are situations that give people pause about the role that dogs should have on a flight. Delta also feared that people could bypass their ban by registering untrained pit bulls as service dogs. Given all the problems that the airline has had with service animals, it’s not surprising that this was a consideration. This is in part why the ban was expanded to service animals as well.
Legal advocates stated that the decision to ban a certain breed of service dog was not lawful and challenged the ban. The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently ruled that the banning of a specific breed of service dog was not allowed. Though it did not issue a ruling for bans on breeds that are not service animals. For the time being it seems that Delta will be able to continue to prevent non-service pit bulls from boarding their planes. This will remain a controversial move to pit bull advocates. DOT did not want an airline to have discretion over what types of breeds could be service animals. There are plenty of cases where pit bulls are essential to people with specific needs. It would not be fair to them to tell them that their service dogs are no longer allowed.
Delta is also still allowed to restrict what kinds of animals it allows on its flights with the exception of dogs, cats, and miniature horses. DOT also overruled another issuance by Delta that disallowed service animals on flights longer than 8 hours. As long as the animals are documented to relieve themselves without causing an issue, they are permitted on flights longer than 8 hours. It appears that Delta has taken a loss here, but it remains to be seen if they will fight the rulings or move on. Regardless of what happens, it is important to make sure that your animal is trained before taking it on a flight. Having the proper documentation will save you time and hassle, making sure that you get to destination safely.
Time will only tell how this will pan out for Delta. People on both sides feel strongly about their position and hope that the situation will be less contentious in the near future. We can all hope that Delta finds a reasonable conclusion based on the feedback that they are receiving. It is particularly difficult because most pit bulls are good dogs that are just going about their day-to-day business. It is sad that these dogs have to be stigmatized, but it will continue until people learn to treat and train their dogs better.