ORLANDO, Fla. – A man who thought a service dog on a flight to Orlando was taking up too much space punched the animal and its deaf, pregnant owner, according to the Orlando Police Department.
Hazel Ramirez, who is deaf and 20 weeks pregnant, said she was on a Frontier Airlines flight from Colorado Springs to Orlando International Airport on Thursday with her husband, Matt Silva, who is also deaf, their two daughters and their 8-month-old Great Dane Zariel.
Ramirez said the service dog slept through the duration of the flight, then woke up and stretched when the plane landed.
Police said Timothy Manley, who was on the flight with his wife and his son, thought the dog was taking up too much space so he punched her with a closed fist, causing the animal to yelp, shake her head and hide under a seat.
Ramirez said she and her husband were appalled by Manley's actions.
"So my husband gets mad and yelled at the man to tell him never touch any dogs or service animals. The man continued used his fist hand at my dog so I went in and told his wife that he should never punch my dog for no reason," Ramirez wrote in a message to News 6.
The argument continued until the plane taxied to the gate and police arrived. Before authorities arrived, Manley punched Ramirez in the stomach and Silva tackled Manley to try to prevent him from evading police, according to the report.
"Unfortunately the man determined to leave so he ran and punched my belly then pushed my two daughters, they fell and cried so hard," Ramirez said, adding that she and her family traveled to Orlando for their gender reveal party.
Officials from Frontier Airlines said service animals are permitted on all flights as long as they are certified and properly harnessed.
"The safety and security of our passengers is our top priority at Frontier. Upon deplaning Flight 1752 from Colorado Springs to Orlando, there was a confrontation between passengers. Police were immediately notified to aid in de-escalating the situation," a Frontier spokesman said.
Ramirez told police that she does wish to prosecute and will testify in court. The case has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine if charges will be filed.