Attacks by “service dog” and “reading dogs” illustrate risky practices
ATLANTA, Georgia; BAKERSFIELD, California––Pending lawsuits on behalf of the victims of dog attacks aboard a Delta Airlines flight and in an elementary school classroom could potentially slow down the deployment of dangerous dog breeds as “canine ambassadors” in public places––or not, depending on the outcomes and amounts of payout.
ANIMALS 24-7 spotlighted the attack aboard the airliner, by an alleged service dog, soon after it occurred, on June 4, 2017, in an article entitled How the Americans with Disabilities Act has become the “Pit Bull Pushers Act”
Case filed two years after airliner attack
Victim Marlin Tremaine Jackson and his attorneys apparently waited nearly two years to file lawsuits against Delta Airlines and dog owner Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr.
Waiting to file a personal injury lawsuit until the statute of limitations of filing has nearly expired is a common strategy in cases where the extent of the victim’s injuries cannot be immediately known.
Jackson reportedly suffered permanent facial scarring when attacked by Mundy’s alleged service dog.
Jackson “bled so profusely that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane,” according to his lawsuits.
As well as alleging that Mundy was negligent in handling the dog, the lawsuits charge that Delta Airlines was negligent in not ascertaining whether the dog met the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to travel as a service dog in the passenger compartment of the airliner.
The lawsuit contends that Jackson continues to experience “severe physical pain and suffering,” ongoing significant medical expenses, and loss of income and earning potential, such that his “entire lifestyle has been severely impaired by this attack.”
According to attorney J. Ross Massey of Alexander Shunnarah & Associates, representing Jackson, of Daphne, Alabama, Jackson was attempting to fly from Atlanta to San Diego.
Assigned a window seat in Row 31 on the left side of the plane, Jackson discovered that fellow passenger Ronald Kevin Mundy, Jr. “was sitting in the middle seat with his dog in his lap.
“Dog was issued for support”?
“According to witnesses,” Massey said in June 2017, “the approximately 50-pound dog growled at Jackson soon after he took his seat. The dog continued to act in a strange manner as Jackson attempted to buckle his seatbelt. The growling increased and the dog lunged for Jackson’s face. The dog began biting Jackson, who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window.
“The dog was pulled away but broke free from Mundy’s grasp,” Massey continued, “and attacked Jackson a second time. The attacks reportedly lasted 30 seconds and resulted in profuse bleeding from severe lacerations to Jackson’s face, including a puncture through the lip and gum. Jackson’s injuries required immediate transport to the emergency room via ambulance, where he received 28 stitches.”
The Atlanta Police Department reported at the time that Mundy was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps “who advised that the dog was issued to him for support,” wrote Kelly Yamanouchi of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The U.S. Marine Corps, however, has banned pit bulls from bases since 2009.
Delta bans pit bulls
Added Yamanouchi on May 28, 2019, “Delta, the suit alleges, ‘took no action to verify or document the behavioral training of the large animal,’ such as requiring signed documentation showing the animal is trained and can behave in the airplane setting. ‘Such measures were feasible at the time but were not in effect until after this attack,’ according to the complaint.
“Delta said it does not comment on pending litigation,” Yamanouchi continued. “After the attack, Delta tightened restrictions on emotional support animals by requiring a ‘confirmation of animal training’ form and other documents. It also banned pit bulls as service or support animals.”
The Atlanta police report of the attack on Jackson identified the dog as “chocolate lab/pointer mix,” but photos obtained by ANIMALS 24-7 indicate the dog was actually a pit bull or pit mix.
Abuse of legislation
The attack renewed attention throughout the airline industry to widespread misuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Air Carrier Access Act to force dogs, especially pit bulls, into places and situations in which, for reasons of protecting public safety, dogs would normally not be allowed.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows business representatives to ask only two questions of a person who demands access to premises with a purported service dog: “Is the dog required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the dog been trained to do?”
The Air Carrier Access Act extends the definition of a service dog to include dogs kept for “emotional support.”
At least 22 dogs falsely represented as “service” animals have killed at least four people and have disfigured more than 20 people since 2011. Fourteen of the dogs were pit bulls, three were Rottweilers, two were German shepherds, and three were dogs of undisclosed breed.
Fred & Barney
The Bakersfield classroom dog attack, occurring on May 9, 2019 at Wayside Elementary School, became public knowledge through a May 16, 2019 media conference hosted by Chain Cohn Stiles attorney Matthew Clark, on behalf of eight-year-old victim Leilani Rivera.
Volunteer readers Ann Ardell and Jeff Jones, Clark narrated, brought to Rivera’s second grade classroom two dogs named Fred and Barney, identified as chows or Akita-chow mixes.
“After the reading, students were given permission to pet the dogs,” wrote Bakersfield Californian reporter Joseph Luiz. Rivera was then “seriously injured after being bitten in the face by one of the dogs.”
While a lawsuit on behalf of Rivera has not yet been filed, Luiz said, Clark has served notice on the school of intent to sue.
Readers had records
Meanwhile, Luiz learned from Kern County Superior Court records, “Ann Ardell has seven entries in the online court system, while Jeff Jones has 13.
“According to court records,” Luiz said, “charges against Ardell in all but one of the listed cases were dismissed. These included drug-related offenses, using a mobile home outside of an approved area, and working as a contractor without a state license.
“Ardell did plead no contest, however, to two counts of petty theft in 1994. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, court records show.
“Jones has been convicted [of] trespassing, obstructing an officer, operating an unregistered vehicle and working as a state contractor without a license,” Luiz summarized.
What California requires to work with school children
Despite her background, Luiz added, “Ardell was cleared to serve as a volunteer reader,” after a two-hour training session. Jones, however, had not even applied to become a volunteer reader.
Noted Luiz, “While the California Education Code relating to background checks doesn’t specifically include volunteers, it does suggest that Jones could have been eligible if he had applied. According to the code, a person can be employed as long as they haven’t been convicted of a serious felony, drug-related or sex-related offenses. While Jones was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, he was never convicted of the charge, records show.”
The California Education Code does not mention credentials for dogs.
Classroom programs featuring dogs. Including some in which children read to dogs, have gained popularity worldwide since Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson, then Hong Kong representative for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, introduced “Dr. Dog” in 1991, using several highly trained golden retrievers. The “Dr. Dog” program initially offered animal therapy at more than 60 Hong Kong hospitals and convalescent facilities.
By invitation, the “Dr. Dog” program under Animals Asia Foundation sponsorship expanded into schoolroom visits to help children overcome inhibitions about being around dogs. The program also expanded to use dogs of other breeds and backgrounds.
“Dr. Dog” then spread to India via the Blue Cross of India and to the Philippines via the Philippine Animal Welfare Society. The Friends of Nature Animal Rescue Group took it on into mainland China. More than 1,000 “Dr. Dogs” have now worked in Asian nations.
Purpose changed as idea spread
The original purpose of the classroom visits was to counter fear and suspicion of dogs as potential rabies carriers, in societies where rabies had long been an omnipresent threat. “Dr. Dog” was used to teach the importance of rabies vaccination and spay/neuter.
By the time the “Dr. Dog” idea reached the U.S. and Europe, though, it had morphed into trying to promote acceptance and even adoptions of dogs of known dangerous breed, and was no longer tightly controlled by established humane organizations, using dogs who were professionally trained, as Robinson emphasized, to be “bomb-proof.”
Troubles in Northern Ireland
An early fiasco involving a school visit from a dangerous dog came on June 28, 2013 at the Carniny Primary School in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Island, when a teacher had her husband bring their pet Malamute to visit her students on the last day of school before summer vacation.
The Malamute was “a lovely dog, a dog that has never been any bother, a friendly dog,”
Carniny School principal Raymond Ross told media.
Only one child at a time was allowed to approach the dog, in the presence of “a number of adults,” Ross said, with the dog “in a very controlled position.”
A five-year-old, however, was facially mauled. The Malamute was euthanized the next morning.