ATLANTA, GA — Delta Airlines Flight 1430 from Atlanta to San Diego began like any other. Passengers boarded the airplane preparing for the long flight — only what happened moments before takeoff has become national news and has possibly disfigured a passenger for the rest of his life. It has also potentially done further damage to a combat veteran who desperately needed the companionship and trust of his emotional support dog.
Days after the attack, a clearer picture of the incident has emerged. A police report obtained by Patch further details the chaos surrounding the moment the 4-year-old, 50-pound dog owned by a combat veteran mauled a man sitting next to him.
The incident began Sunday, June 4, on the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr., 24, a Marine veteran from Mills River, North Carolina, was sitting next to 39-year-old Marlin Termaine Jackson of Daphne, Alabama. Mundy at some point was holding his dog, a Labrador retriever/pointer mix, in his lap.
Jackson has received 28 stitches and is awaiting consultation for plastic surgery, according to J. Ross Massey, the attorney representing him. Massey and his legal team said they are looking into whether Delta complied with requirements regarding emotional support animals and policies for unrestrained larger animals within a plane’s cabin. And the fate of the dog is not known; Mundy has not spoken about the incident.
“We understand and respect the importance of emotional support and service animals, especially for our nation’s veterans. We are also concerned with Delta Air Lines’ compliance with their policies to ensure the safety of all passengers,” Massey said in a statement. “It is troubling that an airline would allow a dog of such substantial size to ride in a passenger’s lap without a muzzle. Especially considering the dog and its owner were assigned a middle seat despite Delta Air Lines’ policies that call for the re-accommodation of larger animals.”
According to an Atlanta Police report and a summary of the incident Massey provided to Patch, Jackson was seated next to the window, and Mundy was seated next to him with the dog in his lap. Soon after Jackson was seated, the dog began growling at him.
As Jackson began to buckle his seat belt, the dog “continued to act in a strange manner,” the summary says. “The growling increased and the dog lunged for Mr. Jackson’s face. The dog began biting Mr. Jackson, who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window.”
The attack, which caused considerable commotion in the cabin, ceased temporarily as the dog was pulled away, but the animal was able to break free from Mundy again — beginning a horrific second episode of viciously biting Jackson, according to the summary. “The attacks reportedly lasted 30 seconds and resulted in profuse bleeding from severe lacerations to Mr. Jackson’s face,” the summary says.
Jackson suffered from multiple injuries in the attack, including punctures in the lip and gum, Massey said. Pictures of Jackson obtained by Patch show large chunks of flesh missing from his face.
Delta staffers aboard the plane sprang into action, calling law enforcement and trying to maintain order on the flight. The police report says that as an officer approached, first responders with the fire department, medics and EMS personnel were already on the scene.
According to the police, as the crisis continued, professionals trained to handle dogs such as Mundy’s simply could not be reached. “Multiple attempts of request for assistance from Animal Control from Clayton and Fulton counties were negative,” the report says.
The dog was not “secured” until a Delta supervisor retrieved a dog crate, police said. Jackson was walked off the plane by medical personnel, while the airline said Mundy was moved to another flight.
A passenger on the flight, citing information from the flight crew, said the dog’s owner was seen hugging the dog and sobbing, saying, “I know they’re going to put him down,” WAGA reports.
The police report indicates the dog is rabies vaccinated. The animal’s future is unclear. Attempts by Patch to reach Mundy or his family have been unsuccessful.
“The customer who was bitten was removed from the flight to receive medical attention,” Delta told Patch in a statement. “Local law enforcement spoke with the owner and ultimately cleared the dog to travel. The owner was re-accommodated on a later flight with the dog flying in a kennel.”
“Mr. Mundy and his dog were both removed from the flight for the safety of the remaining passengers,” the police report says.
Massey questions whether Delta saw to it that Mundy’s dog met standards for socialization around crowds.
“We expect airlines to follow procedures as required and verify any dogs traveling unrestrained in the open cabin are trained for handling the large crowds and enclosed environments encountered on board an airplane,” he said.
Delta is reportedly reviewing its policies regarding emotional support dogs.
On its website, the company correctly makes a distinction between service dogs and emotional support dogs. Delta guidelines say, “We welcome trained service animals in the aircraft cabin … However, the animal must be trained to behave properly in public settings as service animals do.
Emotional support animals travel free of charge and the animal is exempt from cabin allotment. Like service animals, emotional support animals can be transported in the cabin.”
“Please understand that with larger service animals or passengers with multiple service animals, we may need to re-accommodate you if the animal encroaches on other passengers or extends into aisles, which would be a violation of FAA regulations.”
For emotional support animals, Delta says it requires documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from either a licensed medical or mental health professional to be presented to an agent upon check-in.