‘Emotional support’ pit bull attacked 5-year-old girl at Oregon airport, lawsuit says

FEBRUARY 28, 2019 09:05 AM,

UPDATED FEBRUARY 28, 2019 09:05 AM

When 5-year-old Gabriella Gonzalez spotted a dog at the Portland, Oregon, airport in December 2017, she asked permission to pet it, The Oregonian reported.

But the dog, reportedly a pit bull, bit Gabriella on the face, injuring her eyelid, tear duct and lip, a civil suit says. Her injuries required surgery and left lasting scars, the suit says.

The lawsuit, filed Monday against the dog’s owner, the Port of Portland and Alaska Airlines by her mother on behalf of Gabriella, now 7, seeks $1.1 million for medical costs, pain and suffering.

The Port of Portland and Alaska Airlines declined to comment on the litigation, USA Today reported. Michelle Brannan, the dog’s owner, could not be reached for comment, KATU reported.

Attorney Chad Stavley said Gabriella had been set to fly to Texas for Christmas with her family when the attack took place, The Oregonian reported. Her mother and older sister had gone to get coffee, leaving the girl with her brother at the gate.

Police later cited Brannan for failing to crate her dog in accordance with airport rules, according to the publication. She eventually boarded a later flight without the dog.

Stavley questions whether Brannan’s pit bull was really an emotional support animal, The Washington Post reported.

“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,” he said, according to the publication. “It shines a poor light on those folks.”

As a result of the attack, Stavley says Gabriella now has a fear of airports and petting dogs, The Washington Post reported.

The suit says the airport and Alaska Airlines also are at fault for allowing Brannan to take her dog into the gate area, KATU reported. The airport and airline both changed their rules covering service and emotional support animals several months after the attack.

In July, Delta Airlines banned “pit-bull type” dogs from its flights as either service or support animals, McClatchy reported. Other airlines also have clamped down on what kinds of animals qualify to travel with passengers following a series of reported incidents.

Posted by: Byron King on 03/01/19 (This information is only accurate as of 03/01/19. You must contact SCR for updates and changes to this information after 03/01/19 as laws and regulations may change over time. SCR 803-772-5206 or email info at