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‘Emotional support’ pit bull mauls little girl at airport, leaving her with horrific facial injuries: Lawsuit

An Oregon mother has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit more than a year after she claims an “emotional support” pit bull mauled her 5-year-old daughter’s face at an airport.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Multnomah County, Mirna Gonzalez accused Michelle Brannan’s dog of attacking Gabriella Gonzalez at Portland International Airport as they waited at Gate C7 to board a flight to Texas. The animal wasn’t in a crate or kennel and it attacked Gabriella after she got permission to pet it, the lawsuit alleged.

The girl’s mother asserted that Brannan should’ve been aware of her pet’s “vicious propensities.” She also accused Alaska Airlines of allowing Brannan to bring a dangerous animal through the gate despite it not being properly contained.

Brennan reportedly claimed her pit bull was an “emotional support” animal.

The lawsuit also listed the Port of Portland, whose spokesperson told The Oregonian that port officials are allowed to ask travelers with dogs if the dog is a trained service animal and inquire about the service the animal provides. However, the spokesperson said officials are required to accept their answers.

Air Alaska’s website states that support animals must be under the owner’s control at all times (including at the airport). The airline’s website also says the animal must be leashed on in an approved carrier once on the plane.

However, Port of Portland’s website stated emotional support or comfort animals must be kept in pet carriers except when using the pet relief area. If an animal doesn’t fit in a carrier, owners are required to carry them or use a leash that doesn’t extend from more than three feet.

The Oregonian reported that port officials did believe Brennan’s dog could’ve fit in some sort of carrier—and had cited her for failing to do so.

The family’s lawyer, Chad Stavley, said Brennan was presumably in possession of a therapist letter which stated that her pet was a support animal. The note didn’t specify what animal it was referring to, he said.

Stavley told the outlet that the horrific attack left Gabriella with scars more than a year after the attack.

“As a result of the incident, Gabriella Gonzalez suffered injury to the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and soft tissue of her face, eye, eyelid, tear duct and lip, as well as emotional trauma,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit also said Gabriella “required surgery to repair complex facial lacerations and a damaged tear duct.” It went on to claim that the 5-year-old’s injuries have incurred medical expenses that are likely to continue in the future.

The family believes Brennan is liable for all damages Gabriella suffered in the December 2017 incident. They’re seeking $100,000 for past and future medical expenses and $1 million for her pain and suffering.

[Featured Image: Gabriella Gonzalez/Courtesy of Chad Stavley]