American Airlines Blocks Heroic Service Dog From Boarding Plane

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Jonah Bennett Contributor
Font Size:

A service dog was denied from accompanying Marine Corps Capt. Jason Haag on a flight home via American Airlines after just being named Service Dog of the Year at a gala event.

Haag was bringing service dog Axel home from the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, a nationally televised event at the Beverley Hilton, where Axel won the title based on the support of over a million Americans, who voted to make him ‘hero dog.’

Axel and Haag are inseparable, having come together three years ago after Haag struggled vainly to handle a diagnosis of  post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury all on his own.

After serving three combat tours, Haag had difficulty readjusting to life back home and often abused alcohol to cope. He also ended up taking over 30 different medications to help deal with debilitating symptoms stemming from PTSD and TBI. But in 2012, his life started to turn around when he followed a suggestion from his wife and contacted the organization K9s for Warriors, a group which pairs veterans with service dogs. There, he met the German shepherd Axel. The meeting turned out to be at just the right time for the both of them.

Axel was about to be put down, and Haag was sleeping with a gun under his pillow every night in a basement. He had virtually locked himself in with the windows drawn for over a year and a half, only texting his wife if he needed something.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if it wasn’t for Axel, I’d be six feet underground now,” Haag told Today in 2014. “I’d have become a PTSD statistic.”

Since 2012, Axel has helped Haag function and pull him out of environments when he starts to experience panic attacks.

But on Saturday, American Airlines denied Axel entrance to the plane on the flight home to Fredericksburg, Va., even though Haag followed regulation and gave credible verbal assurance that Axel was, in fact, a service dog. In addition, Axel clearly had a harness and a vest indicating that he was a service dog. But an American Airlines employee interrogated Haag on his disability and asked for more documentation. Later, that employee explained to the American Humane Association that Haag needed a medical alert card. There is no such official American Airlines policy.

American Airlines issued an apology Monday.

“Service animals are absolutely essential to so many people who struggle with emotional and physical challenges,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association, in a statement. “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 and Axel at the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards:

American Humane Association's 5th Annual Hero Dog Awards 2015

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact