Bites From Emotional Support Dogs Are On The Rise

 

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For people suffering from severe Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Panic Attacks, Fears/Phobias, and more, simple everyday tasks prove a daunting challenge. Such activities as shopping, driving, and simple socializing are ones that people suffering from these disorders tend to avoid. In an attempt to recover and live a balanced, normal life, those with severe mental impairments who are working with licensed mental health professionals are sometimes given a letter of authorization for an Emotional Support Animal.

With the help of an Emotional Support Animal, (and for this post an Emotional Support Dog) a human being in suffering is able to perform these basic daily tasks in addition to or in lieu of medications (for example, Xanax for Panic Disorders) which is why many health professionals encourage their use.

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However amazing our canine friends can be, not all are suited to be placed in situations Emotional Support Animals find themselves in. As a result, more and more cases involving dog bites from Emotional Support Animals are developing.

In a recent case, an Envoy Air flight attendant was bitten by such an animal and required 5 stitches as a result.

In 2018, an Alabama man was “mauled” by an emotional support animal on a Delta airlines flight. The man’s injuries were so extensive that he was immediately taken to the emergency room, and required surgery. In the man’s own testament, he had just taken his seat in the plane when the dog began growling at him. Within minutes, before the man had time to even fasten his seat belt, the 50 lb dog lunged at him and began attacking the man’s face. Even after being pulled off of the man, the dog freed himself and attacked again. Having been seated in the window seat position, the man had no choice but to withstand this traumatizing torment.

Dog bite wounds. (Photo courtesy Alexander Shunnarah & Associates)

Dog bites should be taken very seriously. In minor incidents, infection and psychological trauma can occur. In extreme cases, the bite of a dog can end the life of a full grown man given the strength, size, and breed of the dog and location of the bite.

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Teeth of a Great Dane

The Canine jaw is a massively dangerous structure. Everything about it has been developed over the centuries to ensure fatality of prey.  The strong, precise “fang” teeth are curved in such a way that no victim be able to pull themselves away during a bite. The sharpness of a dog’s teeth combined with bite force (such as in Rottweilers, who have a bite force of 328 lbs of pressure) are enough to snap bones and tear flesh.

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The reason I am being so detailed is because it is imperative that people understand the science and biology of the canine, the problem that is occurring, how true of a societal dilemma this issue really is, and how to potentially prevent dog bites from happening in the future.

 

 

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8 month old German Shepherd jaw

 

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As a result of Emotional Support Dog bite cases, many companies around the world are being forced to change their policies on service/support animals in order to maintain public health and safety.

However, the RESPONSIBILITY FALLS on the DOG’S OWNER and the LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL who authorized the release of the animal in the general public.

An Emotional Support Animal is not a Service Animal by definition. Therefore the animal is not legally required to go through the rigorous training and development that a typical Service Dog undergoes.

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As a result of this lack of development, an emotional support canine is not always able to comprehend and react accordingly in varying types of or stressful situations (like being on an airplane.)

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Service Dogs are highly socialized. Their strict training and socialization often begins at critically young stages in the dog’s life, making them accustomed to differing social cues of varying human beings and other animals thus allowing the dog to behave in an accordingly acceptable way in society. Without this intense, early socialization, a dog often becomes unfamiliar and afraid in stressful social situations that may lead to a bite. It is lame-brained to assume that a socially-challenged individual can create, train, and develop healthy social standards in their dog.

Although the benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal for an individual in suffering are monumentous; it cannot come at such a cost that another human being is put into a traumatic suffering as a result.

It would be logical that a Licensed Mental Health Professional review and meet with a dog before granting a letter of authorization for Support. It would further serve a great justice that the dog be evaluated by a Dog Behaviorist or Trainer before awarding such merit.

If for any reason, an owner of an Emotional Support Animal doubts the dog’s ability to maintain public safety, it is imperative that a Dog Trainer be sought out or a reevaluation of wellness goals be performed. A dog that has bitten is subject to euthenization in many states. Therefore for the best possible achievement of goals for all peoples, great care and consideration must be exercised when implementing an Emotional Support Animal.

The American Kennel Club provides guidelines to ensure Service Dogs remain upstanding citizens. One of these requirements is that the dog always be put first in a sense that it is always well-groomed, and in good health. Great example must be taken from the AKC guidelines, since an unhealthy or stressed Service Dog, may bite. (We are assuming the dog is unknowingly aggressive and simply experiencing stress as a result in these bite cases.) If you are not sure whether your dog is exhibiting signs of stress, click this link to identify signs of stress in your dog.

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If the owner of an Emotional Support Animal wishes to be honored, respected, and treated as an equal to a Service Animal, it is obligatory that they adhere to some measure of equal standards.

We cannot rely on companies, corporations, and governments to solve this dilemma for us. The most likely result would an absolute ban on Emotional Support Animals. We are able to resolve this problem ourselves, with a little bit of foresight and consideration for all animals and peoples sharing our world today.

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