Pet Safety in the Air - Do You Dare?

You know, this is one of those heartbreaking situations that every pet owner can sympathize with....it's sometimes hard to make arrangements for your furry friends at home, and so, you bite the bullet and make somewhat scary decision to take them along with you on your flight.


Here's what happened to Delta Airlines passenger Heather Lombardi and her tiny hairless kitten, Snickers, when they flew from Connecticut to Utah this past January - a cargo hold latch malfunctioned during the flight resulting in an hour delay in retrieving Snickers from the aircraft.  In the 10 degree weather, this unfortunate delay resulted in the demise of Snickers, who froze to death.


Delta Airlines initially offered to compensate Lombardi for the airfare cost of $290 plus damages of $2,900.  As of last week, Delta has since reduced the amount of the offer to the airfare cost plus $50 to cover the cost of Snickers based on weight; although Snickers only weighed in at a few pounds, there's a $50 minimum refund rate.


The Safe Air Travel for Animals Act went into effect in May 2005 which requires all airlines to report any incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation. From January to December of 2010, there have been 5 losses, 13 injuries, and 39 deaths of beloved pets entrusted for safe passage. 


Delta Airlines reported 16 deaths, 6 injuries, and 1 loss during this time.  Here are the complete results as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report dated February 2011: 

Alaska
4
4
1
American
6
0
1
American Eagle
1
0
0
Atlantic Southeast
0
0
1
Continental
6
1
0
Delta
16
6
1
Frontier
0
1
0
Hawaiian
2
0
0
SkyWest
0
1
0
United
4
0
1
TOTAL
39
13
5



According to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD), over two million pets and other live animals are transported every year in the United States alone. Comparatively speaking, 85 reported incidents is relatively small overall but the majority of these animals are not just pets – they are truly family members.
“Many injuries, deaths and escapes can be attributed to either the pet trying to escape the kennel…a dog can chew it’s way out…dogs and cats are able to push the door open or partially open and escape…the kennels itself if not properly and securely assembled…the kennel lock is broken or not properly latched” – these are all reasons, according to the United States Department  of Agriculture (USDA), as to why pets can be injured or worse during transportation.
Unfortunately, many animal rights groups in the United States believe that the new legislation simply did not go far enough. There have been no provisions to improve the temperature control or ventilation systems of the cargo and baggage areas of aircrafts. In the event of a tragedy, the dollar amount that families can recover is severely limited.
The Toronto Humane Society goes so far as to boldly state that they “do not recommend shipping pets by plane unless there is no alternative.” Basic recommendations include avoiding flying your pet during the high traffic months of May to August (as these have the highest reports of incidents), properly and securely assembling a quality kennel and then acclimatizing your pet to their kennel prior to travel. 

Detailed safety tips for your pets travel are available on most airline websites, the DOT website at www.dot.gov and the Humane Society of the United States online at www.hsus.org

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
HALP by GreekGeek
June 2006 by Ange's Pets


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