Last updated: 09:32 AM ET, Tue September 22 2015

Airline Denies Retired Marine's Service Dog Entry on Flight

Airlines & Airports | Donald Wood | September 22, 2015

Airline Denies Retired Marine's Service Dog Entry on Flight

Photo via LinkedIn/Jason Haag

A retired Marine using a service dog was denied entry on an American Airlines flight due to a lack of documentation, despite being assured that there would be no issue by customer services representatives when booking the ticket.

Retired Marine Captain Jason Haag was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury after two tours of duty in the Middle East. Through the K9s for Warriors program, Haag was partnered with a German shepherd named Axel, an animal he now calls his lifesaver.

Due to the inspirational story of friendship and loyalty, Axel was named the winner in the Service Dog category at the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards on Saturday night. While attempting to return home from the award show, Haag and his dog were denied entry onto the flight, which was scheduled to depart from Los Angeles International Airport Sunday afternoon.

Before booking the flight, Haag and his wife contacted American Airlines and found out exactly what they needed to do in order to make the trek home without any hitches. The dog and his owner had the proper animal ID card, harness, tags, written documentation and credible verbal assurance.

When Haag and Axel went to board their flight, though, an American Airlines representative began to ask additional questions and eventually denied the Marine entry. The American Humane Association acted immediately and reached out to the airline, which issued an apology for the way the company handled the situation.

The American Humane Association President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert released a statement about the incident, saying, “Service animals are absolutely essential to so many people who struggle with emotional and physical challenges. While airlines certainly have the right to maintain appropriate protocols, these should not and cannot prevent life-enhancing and life-saving service animals from accompanying the people who so greatly need them. In this case, the airline did not even follow its own guidelines. We call upon the company to reimburse the costs endured by Captain Haag in the course of this regrettable action, and on all airlines to better train their staff.”

Haag eventually returned home with his award-winning service dog. For those who want to see Axel at the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, the show will be broadcast nationwide by the Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 30.


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