Victim of an emotional support animal bite

Emotional support animals – particularly dogs – are becoming more and more common. It is not unusual to encounter one in virtually any place or situation. Because emotional support animals lack the training of other service animals, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired, dog bites are a very real threat.

The Washington Post reported that a man filed a negligence lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and the owner of an emotional support dog after the owner’s approximately 50-pound chocolate Labrador-pointer mix attacked the man and caused injuries requiring 28 stitches. The man claimed he bled so badly that a row of seats later had to be removed from the plane.

The Post noted that Delta tightened rules on emotional support and service animals in March 2018 when it required passengers to provide “confirmation of animal training,” proof of immunization records, and a letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional regarding the request for the support animal.

Emotional-support animals have been involved in incidents like this all over the country. Another lawsuit was filed this past February against a dog owner, Alaska Airlines, and the municipal agency Port of Portland after a 5-year-old girl was bitten in the face by an emotional support pit bull.

Differences Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs

It is important to understand that an emotional support dog does not give the dog owner the same level of protection that is afforded to the owners of service dogs. Unlike emotional support animals, which can be denied entry to various locations, people who have service animals are allowed to bring the animals onto most properties, including privately owned businesses.

It is also important to note that service dogs have usually undergone special training to perform a variety of functions that their owners are incapable of performing themselves. In other words, service dogs have usually been certified as such and are far more likely to behave appropriately around strangers.

What to Do If You Are Bitten by an Emotional Support Dog

Your first step after being bitten by an emotional support animal should always be to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This is true even when you do not initially think you were hurt, as you will want to be sure any injury is properly treated to avoid possible infection and  to be diagnosed for possible tetanus or rabies.

You should also take pictures of your injuries while they are at their worst and before they have time to recover. Make sure that you know the name and contact information of the dog’s owner. If the incident happens in a public place, such as on a plane or in a business, notify someone in charge about the attack.

Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Emotional Support Dogs?

Liability in emotional support dog bite cases can be more complex than you might initially imagine. While the primary party responsible will be the dog’s owner in most cases, there can be situations like the airline incidents in which another party is also liable for allowing the dog to be a threat to another person’s safety.

South Carolina is considered a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites, which means that a dog owner is virtually always responsible for their dog’s actions, regardless of the animal’s history or lack of history of prior violence. Dog owners can be responsible in South Carolina for dog bites when a victim was in a public or private place and did not provoke or antagonize the animal.

How Jebaily Law Firm Can Help

If you suffered severe injuries because of a bite by an emotional support dog or other animal in South Carolina, Jebaily Law Firm is ready to fight to seek the compensation you need to get the best care and treatment available and not have to worry about how to pay for it.

Our firm handles dog bite cases on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t pay us a cent unless and until we win your case. Call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a South Carolina dog bite lawyer today.

George Jebaily

George D. Jebaily, Managing Partner, is the lead attorney for the Personal Injury Team at Jebaily Law Firm, and in 2014 was elected as an at–large member of Florence City Council.