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Feud Over Service Dog Ends After American Airlines Settles Lawsuit With Army Veteran
American Airlines has settled a 2016 lawsuit filed by an Army veteran who complained that the company had mistreated her because of her service dog.
Mississippi resident Lisa McCombs alleged that airline employees had blocked her from boarding a flight in Kansas two days in a row in October 2015 despite documentation showing Jake, her dog, is a service animal trained to help her with post-traumatic stress disorder. She called the experience "an emotionally scarring ordeal" that continued during a layover at DFW International Airport.
McCombs claimed that American Airlines had violated federal law that forbids air carriers from discriminating based on disability. But American Airlines argued that courts have ruled the law does not allow for McCombs to privately sue.
The woman and the airline reached a settlement late last month. Their representatives declined to discuss the terms, citing confidentiality, though both said the case was resolved "to the satisfaction of all parties."
Matt Miller, a spokesman for the airline, thanked McCombs for her military service.
McCombs, whose service took her to Iraq and Afghanistan, told a federal court that her dog, Jake, was trained to move his body close to hers to distract her during panic attacks. On the day of the flight, Jake was harnessed and wearing a vest identifying him as a service animal, but American Airlines representatives gave her conflicting information and treated her and her dog with disdain even though she had a doctor's letter, according to her lawsuit.
"Ummmm, are you trying to fly with that?" McCombs says an airline employee told her.
The issue of how to accommodate fliers with disabilities and their animals in plane cabins has come under increased scrutiny as travelers show up to their flights with all kinds of creatures — a pig in Connecticut, a duck in North Carolina and a peacock in New Jersey, for instance.
Delta and United Airlines recently decided to tighten their rules for service animals as the perception grows that some travelers are acting fraudulently by bringing in pets. Miller said American Airlines is also reviewing its policy, but not in response to a particular incident.
"Our goal is to protect our team members and our customers who have a need for a service or support animal," he said.
A key distinction for airlines is the kind of assistance that animals provide to travelers.
The Air Carrier Access Act gives a broad definition for service animal — basically any animal individually trained to help a person with a disability, or any animal that provides emotional support to a person with a disability.
Airline employees are instructed to look for clues such as harnesses or tags identifying service animals, or they can ask a flier what kind of assistance the animal provides.
That can be obvious with guide or hearing dogs, but the relief offered by animals that help with mental impairments might not be as conspicuous.
Generally, airlines can't require that a traveler show documentation to allow a service animal in the cabin — that is, unless the traveler fails to give "credible verbal assurance," per federal rules. Yet when it comes to emotional support animals and "psychiatric service animals," federal officials allow airlines to request specific documentation and advanced notice 48 hours before the flight.
Certain animals don't have to be allowed in the cabin at all, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That list includes snakes and other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders (a kind of possum) and spiders. Airlines also have the flexibility to bar entry to animals that are too large for the cabin, too disruptive, or a risk to the safety of others.
American Airlines' policy for service animals follows federal rules, Miller said. The airline lists its documentation requirements for emotional support and psychiatric service animals on its website.
Miller's advice for travelers with animals is to call the airline ahead of time to ask questions or to add a note to their reservations.
"In the instance of service animals, it's always particularly helpful," he said.
©2018 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.
These CIA officers were the first US boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 — and one was 'Marine Todd'
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Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."
That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.
Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.
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Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.
For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.
On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."