DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s the threat you might least expect at an airport.
More airlines are letting customers bring along their four-legged friends. But what The Ones for Justice uncovered may make you think twice about passengers with pets.
DFW Airport has specific policies about how passengers should handle their dogs. With the exception of service and comfort animals, pets must be in a carrier at all times.
But in multiple cases, the airport failed to enforce its own rules.
The wounds on Rowan Duffy’s face are almost healed. But the way he got those wounds will scar his parents forever.
“I thought the worst,” said his mother, Christine Duffy. “I’m getting my heart rate up right now just thinking about it because it’s a mom’s worst nightmare to hear that.”
Last summer while waiting for a flight at DFW Airport, the Duffys stopped at the Centurion Lounge.
That’s where their then 2-year-old son, Rowan, spotted a dog sitting in its owner’s lap.
Christine Duffy saw that the animal was out of its carrier and without a leash.
The Duffys didn’t see what happened next, but they heard it.
“We heard screaming and blood went everywhere,” she said.
That dog bit Rowan in the fcae.
Panicked, his parents Christine and Jason Duffy rushed him to an urgent care center in the terminal.
Meanwhile, passengers and lounge employees stood by. No one called police.
“It was just very chaotic and the only thing we could think of was getting our son medical attention,” Christine Duffy said.
In the midst of the mayhem, Duffy said the dog owner and her pet simply walked away.
That’s something one animal advocate says should never have happened.
“The reporting of the bite is mandatory and in most cases the quarantine is mandatory,” said Madeline Yeaman, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas.
State rules are spelled out in the Rabies Control Act of 1981.
“A person who knows of an animal bite or scratch to an individual that the person could reasonably foresee as capable of transmitting rabies, or who knows of an animal that the person suspects is rabid, shall report the incident or animal to the local rabies control authority of the county or municipality in which the person lives, in which the animal is located, or in which the exposure occurs,” the law states.
Yeaman said the idea is to protect people and pets from more than just rabies.
“You want to make sure and do due diligence,” Yeaman said. “There are many diseases that can be transmitted through blood, saliva.”
But the Ones for Justice found the airport only followed that protocol some of the time.
Since 2014, CBS 11 uncovered eight other cases involving dog bites at DFW Airport. Only half of those reports make any mention of animal control.
Body camera footage captures an incident from January when DFW Airport Police responded to a report of a dog bite.
A dog bit a Smart Cart employee, according to the incident report.
“He bit you way up there? How he get up there?” officers asked.
“That’s like fresh, that’s a tooth mark,” said the employee, raising his shirt to show a mark above his belt.
The dog’s owner claims it was the first time the animal had acted aggressively in seven years.
But minutes later, the dog growled at another passerby. Police did not contact animal control.
In 2017, a 2-year-old child was bitten by another passenger’s dog. A report states the child was playing with two small dogs outside a gate when one dog suddenly bit her underneath her eye.
An investigator states the bite did break the skin. But at the time, there was no animal control officer on duty.
Just like in the case involving Rowan Duffy, both passenger and dog were allowed to continue their travels.
In another case from 2017, a traveler who was retrieving a bag was reportedly bit by a law enforcement dog inside the airport, but the report makes no mention of contacting the local animal control authority.
State law does make an exception to the quarantine requirement for police service animals. The rules make it clear that if the animal exhibits “abnormal” behavior after the bite, the law enforcement agency or handler should make the animal available to the local health authority for testing.
The handler in the 2017 incident wrote, “my K9 partner showed no aggression” toward the passenger after making contact with her skin.
In another case, police arrived to investigate a report of a dog bite only after the animal and its owner had left the airport. Animal control was not contacted.
Many local governments enforce their own ordinances regarding dog bites.
For example, the City of Grapevine adheres to a policy that states, “ALL instances of injury to humans by an animal, whether domestic or wild, are required by the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 826.041 to be reported to the Local Rabies Control Authority for the county or municipality in which the incident occurred….when an animal, domestic or wild, bites or scratches a person there is concern of the rabies virus being transmitted to the person.”
But the airport is not mandated to follow local ordinances for dog bites because the property is located in multiple jurisdictions, according to Cynthia Vega, a spokeswoman for DFW Airport.
Instead, Vega said police officers respond to each incident using their “best judgment.”
Rowan Duffy is back to his old self. But his parents said they hope his scar serves as a warning to other travelers.
“Just to see your son have to go through that and then put yourself through what we’re going through just to bring awareness to other parents, I think that’s the hard part,” Duffy said.
The Duffy family is now suing DFW Airport and the lounge where the attack happened.
Because of ongoing legal matters, Vega said she cannot comment on this incident.
A spokesperson for American Express, which operates Centurion Lounge, said she also could not comment on a pending legal case. Instead, she included a link to the pet policies for the Centurion Lounge.
“Pets are welcome in Centurion Lounges as long as they remain in their carriers and with their owners at all times,” the policy reads.
Even though the airport isn’t required to follow local rules about reporting dog bites, Vega said the airport does follow state law.
However, Vega explained that even in the event a dog bites someone, the chances a dog in the airport has rabies are low due to the fact each airline requires proof of vaccination for pets accompanying travelers.
Per DFW Airport Rules and Regulations, passengers traveling with dogs are required to keep them in pet carriers while in secured areas of the airport, which include terminals and lounges, according to an email from DFW Airport.
In a later email, the airport sent an email stating:
“DFW Airport’s Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) complies with state law with its response to any reported animal scratches or bites. Upon notification that a person is bitten or scratched by a dog or cat in a DFW terminal, DPS officers will conduct an on-scene investigation, collect information from witnesses, and review available surveillance footage. If it is determined that an incident merits an intervention, then the City of Grapevine’s Animal Services will be contacted. It is not the policy or practice for DFW DPS to seize every animal involved in every animal complaint; however, an incident involving an animal that causes serious bodily injury will be treated as a criminal offense by DFW pursuant to the Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005. Additionally, municipal animal services will be contacted if a potential exposure to rabies occurred as required by the Texas Health and Safety Code sections 826.041 and 826.042 and the Texas Administrative Code Rule 169.25.”
An open records request revealed no reports involving dog bites at Dallas Love Field since 2014.