(PET TRAVEL) Over the years, the question of whether animals are safe to fly has been a hot topic. Some claim the rules are not strict enough, especially as these incalculable deaths on aircrafts go unreported. Recently, though, the Department of Transportation has responded to a petition that addresses these issues. Read on to learn more about how you can help change these deceiving regulations and simultaneously provide a more safe environment for our pets. — Global Animal

Photo Credit: Jeff Bennett

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Lisa Franzetta

In the summer of 2010, we read the heartbreaking headlines about the deaths of seven puppies who were being transported in a cargo hold on an American Airlines flight from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chicago. Finally, nearly two years later, in response to an ALDF petition, the Department of Transportation is finally taking action to require more accurate reporting of the real dangers of shipping animals in commercial airline cargo holds.

On the August 2010 American Airlines flight, the plane had sat on the tarmac for over an hour prior to take-off in the blazing summer heat, which according to news reports was already 86 degrees by 7 am that morning. When 14 puppies taken from the cargo hold were finally removed from the plane to be transported to connecting gates, baggage handlers noticed they looked dangerously lethargic. Half of them did not survive the ordeal.

This news-making tragedy was a high profile example of a tragedy that ALDF hears about all too often—animals injured or killed while being transported in cargo holds (as opposed to in the main cabin of the plane). Transporting animals in cargo is a risky, controversial practice, and many commercial airlines refuse to do it.

Despite this risk, the Department of Transportation only requires airlines to report the deaths or disappearances of animals considered “pets”—meaning that there has been no accurate reporting on in-flight harm to dogs shipped by puppy mills or other animals transported as cargo. By such standards, no one would be required to report on the deaths of the seven puppies that blazing August day—shipped by a puppy mill or breeder, they were not “family pets,” and their lives would go unaccounted for.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund swiftly submitted a petition to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to promulgate new rules requiring airlines to report deaths, injuries, and losses of all animals, whether or not the animals are pets.Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) also drafted a joint letter to the Secretary of Transportation, arguing that a “flawed interpretation of laws” allowed animal death reporting to “slip through the cracks.”

In late June, the Department of Transportation finally took action in response to ALDF’s petition. The DOT’s new proposed rule would broaden requirements so that the safety of all cats and dogs—including those shipped by breeders and puppy mill owners—be accounted for—a critical step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, that still leaves many animals categorized as they are right now as far as the Department of Transportation is concerned—nothing more than cargo. Concerned members of the public have until August 28 to take action and comment on the DOT’s proposed rule.

The deadline for commenting on the new reporting regulation is on August 28th, 2012, so write the DOT today. Tell them that all animals deserve protection during air transport. The DOT is accepting comments through an online form; please write a short, polite message—preferably in your own words—to tell the DOT that you:

– support the expansion of DOT reporting requirement to non-pet dogs and cats;

– want the DOT to extend these crucial reporting requirements to all animals, not just pets;

– believe that extended reporting requirements are necessary to inform consumers about the risks of air travel, allowing people to make informed decisions about transporting animals safely.

Alternatively, you can send your comments via mail or other means, instructions are on this DOT website.

More Animal Legal Defense Fund: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2112

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