American Airlines sued by woman over emotional support dog treatment



Frontier Airlines says a passenger wanted to take a squirrel on board with her because it was her emotional support animal. The airline does not allow “rodents” on board, including squirrels.

A Florida woman is suing American Airlines after she says she and her emotional support dog were mistreated on an April trip from Miami to Los Angeles.

According to the negligence lawsuit, Avigail Diveroli is seeking at least $75,000 in damages, the Associated Press reports. It says she suffers from severe anxiety and confirmed with the airline twice that her “medically necessary comfort animal,” Simba, could travel with her.

Once on the plane, the lawsuit says, a flight attendant screamed at Diveroli saying the dog could not be in the cabin because it’s an FAA violation. The suit says the berating continued as the attendant downgraded Diveroli from business class and quarantined the dog in a bathroom.

USA TODAY has reached out to American Airlines for comment.

American revised its policies on emotional support animals in March, limiting emotional support animals to cats and dogs and requiring a veterinary health form with vaccination details.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued clarifying guidance to airlines on how to handle service animals and the growing issue of emotional support animals. 

The guidance on species limitations, documentation requirements, containment, check-in and advance notice comes just weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was bitten by an emotional support dog on a flight from Dallas to North Carolina, which prompted union calls to further tighten rules on in-flight animals.

Retired airlines captain John Cox said abusing the emotional support animal rules can have safety implications during an evacuation scenario.

“Critics have complained passengers are able to get instant certification for an emotional support animal, also called a comfort animal, online, and that many aren’t properly trained,” he said, adding that airlines are “slowly making progress in requiring more documentation for all animals traveling on board.”

Contributing: The Associated Press, Julia Thompson

Flying with an emotional support animal?: This DOT guidance might help you

More: American Airlines flight attendant bitten by emotional support dog, requires five stitches


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