Lawsuit filed after emotional support pit bull mauled five-year-old girl when she tried to pet it at airport

Mirna Gonzalez has filed a $1.1 million negligence lawsuit against the dog's owner, Alaska Airlines, and the Port of Portland.


                            Lawsuit filed after emotional support pit bull mauled five-year-old girl when she tried to pet it at airport

A woman whose young daughter was mauled by a pit bull — which was reportedly an emotional support animal — at the Portland International Airport in 2017 has filed a $1.1 million negligence lawsuit against the owner, the airport and the port district.

According to the Daily Mail, Mirna Gonzalez and her children were waiting for an Alaska Airlines flight to Texas on December 18, 2017, at Gate C7 when she went to get a cup of coffee. 

The attack happened when Gonzalez left her daughter alone to go get coffee (Source: Pixabay)
The attack happened when Gonzalez left her daughter alone to go get coffee (Source: Pixabay)

While she was away, her five-year-old daughter Gabriella went by to interact with a dog, a 48-pound American pit bull mix, and asked its owner, Michelle Brannan, if she could pet it.

But the pit bull suddenly lunged at the child and bit her face, leaving her bloodied, with a graphic photo released by the family showing the injuries the five-year-old suffered following the attack. Gabriela's tear duct was severed, and the bite disfigured her upper lip, leaving a part of it missing.

She also suffered "injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and soft tissue of her face, eye, eyelid, tear duct and lip" and was left with permanent scars after going under the knife for "complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct."

KATU reported at the time that, following standard procedure after a bite, the pit bull was taken to the Multnomah County Animal Shelter and placed in a 10-day quarantine. Port of Portland Police also cited Brannan for failing to crate her dog.

Gonzalez's lawsuit has named Brannan, Alaska Airlines, and the Port of Portland in her negligence lawsuit, alleging that the pit bull was let into the airport without a carrier.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County on February 25, also claims Brannan "should have known the animal had vicious propensities." Gonzalez's lawyer, Chad Stavley, said he would launch a probe to check if the pit bull was a legitimate emotional support animal.

Gonzalez's lawyer will probe to find out if the pit bull was actually an emotional support animal (Source: Pixabay)
Gonzalez's lawyer will probe to find out if the pit bull was actually an emotional support animal (Source: Pixabay)

The information could prove pivotal in her case as, under airport rules, only service animals do not have to be kept within their travel carriers while inside the airport terminal. Emotional support animals do not have the same freedom and medical documentation is required to receive this designation.

Speaking about the case, Stavley was quoted as saying, "There’s a lot of abuse of this emotional support animal situation and folks who have legitimate service animals — people who are blind and need guide dogs and the like — are kind of getting thrown into the same boat [as emotional support animals]. It shines a poor light on those folks."

He said he hoped his client's lawsuit would ensure airports and airlines enforce more strict rules concerning emotional support animals. Alaska Airlines has already brought in a new rule which states that passengers must keep their dog or cat — the only animals allowed on board — in a carrier or on a leash at all times and provide 48-hour notice before their flights.