Federal Regulations Make Flying with Pets Safer

Pet Airways, based in Delray Beach, Florida. Photo c/o Mapackers.com

Jack the cat, Mocha, Rocket, and Bea are just the few names of animals that have died while traveling on an airline carrier. New federal regulations are now making it safer for pets to travel.

Starting in January the Department of Transportation (DOT) will require airlines to file a report each time an animal dies, is hurt, or goes missing.

Currently, there are no annual reports on this matter available from airlines nor are the airlines mandated to keep an account of such incidents.

However, one group called “Where is Jack” have independently compiled their own figures. Mary Beth Melchior started the group after her cat, Jack, was lost at JFK Airport for 61 days in 2011. Jack escaped from his kennel when an American Airlines clerk stacked it on top of another kennel, causing them to fall and open on impact. He was finally found after falling through the ceiling tiles of a Customs office but had to be euthanized due to malnourishment and dehydration.

“Just as when Jack was lost, the distraught pet parent is still told by the airlines that “they will find the pet” as they are boarded on the plane. Or the TSA flatly states that it isn’t their problem – leaving the guardian in an even more difficult situation.” wrote Mary Beth Melchior on her blog in 2012.

Where is Jack has compiled a report called, Pet Air Incident Report, showing that since 2005 over 400 animals have died, been injured, or lost.

The new regulations is a step in the right direction, covering personal pets, as well as cats or dogs shipped by breeders. However, the DOT is not expanding the meaning of ‘animal’ to include any other species outside of cats and dogs. “We believe it would be unduly burdensome to require covered carriers to report the death, loss or injury of all species of animals because there potentially could be thousands of individual animals such as fish, rodents and insects that are transported by air carriers in a single commercial shipment.” stated the DOT.

Additionally, the regulation will only apply to domestic carriers with more than 60 seats. This, along with recognizing a hugely narrow definition of animal is problematic. By only including cats and dogs, their definition excludes the reality that beloved pets can come in the form of rabbits, birds, fish, or rats.

This is still a positive step in the right direction as it would force airlines to become accountable of animals being transported on flights and to release their records publicly.

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