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American Airlines Settles Lawsuit with Army Veteran Over Service Dog

McCombs

By Debbie Gregory.

Decorated Army veteran Lisa McCombs, who suffers from PTSD, says flying the friendly skies with her service dog, Jake, has always been easy. McCombs relies on Jake to calm her anxiety and panic before it overwhelms her.

But that changed in 2015 when she and Jake, a Labrador retriever, were barred from boarding an American Airlines flight, in spite of the fact that Jake was wearing his service vest and was properly documented.

Now, American Airlines has settled a 2016 lawsuit filed by McCombs. Due to confidentiality, representatives for both sides declined to discuss the terms, though both said the case was resolved “to the satisfaction of all parties.”

During the trial, the veteran, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, told the court that Jake  was trained to distract her during panic attacks. On the day of the flight, an American Airlines representative treated her and Jake with disdain, according to her lawsuit.

“Ummmm, are you trying to fly with that?” McCombs says an airline employee told her.

Airlines are trying to find a balance between allowing service animals, most often canines, and an array of other emotional support animals (ESAs), such as a kangaroo, a turkey, a duck, and recently, a peacock.

Traditionally, airlines require small animals to travel in cages under the seat of their owner, while large animals travel in the cargo bay. ESAs, however, are allowed to travel with the owner in the open, without the restriction of being caged.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 gives a broad definition for service animal — basically any animal individually trained to help a person with a disability, or any animal that provides emotional support to a person with a disability, unless they are too large for the cabin, too disruptive, or a risk to the safety of others.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Can Condo Association Force Vet to Give Up Support Dog?

Robert  Brady

By Debbie Gregory.

The federal government will look into whether 70-year-old  Vietnam veteran Robert L. Brady will have to give up Bane, the mixed-breed sidekick that his psychologist deemed as an emotional support dog.

Brady filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after a judicial arbitrator determined the dog exceeded the homeowners association weight limit by six pounds.

Evicting animals based on their weight is “senseless” because size doesn’t predict whether a dog will attack someone. It is also difficult to predict what a puppy will weigh by the time they reach adulthood, which is already too late.

HUD will consider whether the case violates fair-housing laws by forcing the widower to surrender the animal despite Orlando Veteran Administration psychologist Matthew Waesche’s recommendation that Brady keep the dog.

“The reason I don’t want to lose him is that he keeps my mind off the war and everything. He’s just a wonderful companion,” said the widower, who retired last year from working as a theme-park bus driver. “My life would be lost without a good companion and that’s why I’m doing all I can to keep from having to get rid of him.”

Waesche wrote in an October 2015 letter that Brady was under his care and that the dog appears to help keep his owner’s mental health issues in remission.

Unlike service dogs trained to assist disabled people with daily tasks, emotional support animals don’t require training. They can be any species and require no certification to assist owners who have psychological disabilities.

“The real crux of our concerns are the HUD fair-housing issues and we’re hopeful it takes its course the way we want it to,” said Orlando attorney Jonathan Paul, who represents Brady.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.