WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KTVU) - Delta Airlines is facing a backlash over a new policy banning pit bulls from flying as service or support animals on its flights.
The policy goes into effect July 10 right at the peak of the summer travel season. Opponents say the policy is too broad and is a disservice to military veterans who need these animals for everyday life.
Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek has reached out to Delta to rethink the policy.
Delta does limit customers to one support animal on a flight, but many argue the new ban on pit bull type dogs promotes unfair stereotypes about the breed.
And do not tell military veteran Rudy Dubford that his pit bull, Layla is a threat to the public.
"I grew up with them and for me, they're the most loyal and awesome dogs that I know of. They get a bad rap because people just don't know, man," Dubford said.
The airline is updating its support animal policy on its website stating the peak travel season is here and they have safety concerns after several employees were bitten.
Dubford says he needs his dog to travel.
"It's got me out of my funk man, she really helps me. I'm not really connected with people, so when I'm not around and out, it helps me deal with my anxiety and stuff at home," Dubford, a native of Oakdale, California said.
The airline claims since 2016 there's been an 84 percent rise in incidents involving service support dogs and they're erring on the side of caution.
The change in rules doesn't fly with workers at a Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation who run the pets and vets program in Walnut Creek.
"I think a policy like that that comes out in a blanket form doesn't serve the needs of the people certainly we want everybody to be safe and comfortable on their flight," said Elena Bickner, executive director at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation.
But safe and comfortable for some means traveling with their service dog.
The airline hasn't defined what they consider a pit bull type dog or how they would identify that dog, which is a problem for those opposed ot the new policy.
Animals must be registered 48 hours before a flight with these lengthy forms filled out.
Bickner adds it would be hard for anyone to find the pit bull in a chart of similar-looking dogs.
"If you suddenly come to the gate and you are with an airline representative, do they have the right or the responsibility based on that dog's look that their unable to board with that person," Bickner said.
Daniel Kimbrell trains pit bulls at ARF, a program at the rescue foundation, for Afghanistan war veterans. Based on behavior, he says pit bulls are the dog of choice.
He says the program has been a big part of his life and a life-changing experience.
"Through my work here, I have been able to help other veterans," Kimbrell said.
Delta has not responded to KTVU's request for comment on this story.
The military veterans here say they will boycott the airline and hope other airlines don't adopt the same policy.