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Pet deaths on planes face more scrutiny

New U.S. regulations will require more airlines to report pet deaths on airplanes.
New U.S. regulations will require more airlines to report pet deaths on airplanes.
Marc Selinger

The U.S. Transportation Department announced July 2 that it has finalized regulations that will require more airlines to report pet deaths on airplanes.

The 31-page “final rule,” which takes effect Jan. 1, will almost double the number of airlines that have to report the death, injury or loss of pets transported on their planes. A total of 27 U.S. airlines will have to report such incidents to the federal government, up from 15 mostly large carriers today. The increase will ensure that nearly all domestic traffic is covered by the reporting requirement.

The new regulations will also expand the definition of “animal” to include cats and dogs shipped by breeders. Previously, the definition was limited to cats and dogs already serving as household pets.

“The department is taking action to provide consumers with a fuller picture of the safety record of airlines in the transportation of animals …,” the document says.

Under current policy, the number of reported incidents has averaged 46 a year since 2006. Such figures could grow when more airlines and pets are subject to the reporting requirement.

A draft of the regulations was issued two years ago and drew more than 5,400 public comments. Animal advocates asserted that an expanded reporting requirement would force airlines to improve their handling of animals, some of whom die in airplane cargo areas due to extreme temperatures, poor ventilation, lack of oxygen and rough handling. Airline groups insisted that increased reporting would be too burdensome.

The final rule drew a mixed reaction from animal groups. The Humane Society of the United States called it “a great leap forward in empowering consumers to understand the risks of pet air travel and to make wise choices about flying their pets in a cargo hold.” But the Animal Legal Defense Fund said the final rule does not go far enough and that it is “considering legal action” to ensure that all animals, not just cats and dogs, are covered by the reporting requirement.

Airlines for America, which represents airlines, said its members will comply with the new rule.

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