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Letter to Delta Air Lines

Open letter from Wisconsin Humane Society President & CEO Anne Reed to Delta Air Lines CEO Edward Bastian:

I write from Wisconsin’s oldest and largest animal welfare organization to urge you to reconsider your newly-announced policy banning “pit-bull-type dogs” as service and support animals.  We fully understand that the topic of support animals in shared spaces must be handled with attention and care, and that aggressive animals cannot be permitted service animals.  But using breed as a proxy for aggression is ineffective and harmful.  With this policy you will exclude wonderful dogs and your customers who depend on them.  And you will fail to screen out dogs who do not fit in your breed category but are in fact dangerous.

I can say from extensive professional and personal experience that pit-bull-type dogs are not aggressive as a group.  Here at the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS), we care for hundreds of pit-bull-type dogs every year.  Their big smiles are consistently adored by our staff and volunteers. (I say “pit-bull-type” because studies show that identification by appearance is a very inaccurate way of determining breed,  This is one of the many problems with enforcing breed-specific policies like the one you have announced.)  Among the more than 11,000 animals we place annually are more than 800 dogs who could be called “pit-bull-type.”  While we occasionally learn that a dog we adopted has behavior problems in the home, breed is never a causal factor in these incidents. 

Our experience is not unique.  In 2017 data from the American Temperament Test Society, pit bulls have a better temperament test pass rate than most other breeds ( ).  And a 2013 paper in the journal Animals and Public Policy concludes, “To date, there has not been a single peer-reviewed journal or study that has proven that one breed or mixed breed of dog is inherently more dangerous, or that Breed Specific laws reduce dog bites,”  

Further, breed exclusion policies like yours are not only ineffective, they are harmful – not only to the animals and people you are directly excluding, but to all animals in need.  In our efforts at WHS to save the lives of homeless animals, breed exclusion policies are a serious impediment.  They feed the false notion that these dogs are naturally dangerous, and thus it is more difficult for us to find homes for them than it should be.  And on any day we can’t adopt one animal out, our shelters are that much more crowded for all animals in our care.  

We stand ready to be a resource for you in identifying concrete, direct indicators of aggression that you can use to keep your employees and clients safe.  We hope your final policy will be based specifically on aggression risk itself, and not on breed as an inaccurate and ineffective substitute.


Anne Reed
President & CEO
Wisconsin Humane Society

  • Friday, June 22, 2018