"The dog apparently felt threatened and bit the flight attendant on their left hand," American Airlines tells PEOPLE
A flight attendant had to get five stitches after being bitten by an emotional support dog during an American Airlines flight, operated by its subsidiary Envoy Air, this week.
The incident took place on an E-175 aircraft that was traveling from Dallas, Texas, to Greensboro, North Carolina, American Airlines tells PEOPLE.
The customer with the emotional support animal “became ill during flight, and the flight attendant was reaching into the seatback pocket to retrieve the air sickness bag for them,” the airline says.
“The dog apparently felt threatened and bit the flight attendant on their left hand.”
The flight attendant was examined by medical personnel when the plane landed at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in North Carolina, “but did not require any treatment – he was cleared to return to [the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport].”
“Upon return to DFW, the flight attendant subsequently received five stitches,” the airline says.
The Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement Tuesday that the incident “is completely unacceptable and inexcusable,” calling for stricter “standards” when it comes to emotional support animals on flights.
“For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals,” the union’s statement continued.
“We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes.”
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“This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it,” the statement concluded.
American Airlines tightened up its policy on emotional support animals this past March, and now only allows cats and dogs to serve as emotional support animals on its flights. The airline also requires a Veterinary Health Form including immunization details for every emotional support animal.