Airlines Show Little Regard For Animals’ Safety
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) hasissued an emergency alert warning pet owners to avoid transporting their animalsby air, particularly during the hot summer months. ALDF cited airlines continueddisregard for the safety of the animals they carry as the reason for thewarning. “Despite hundreds of incidents in which animals have been lost, injuredor killed while being transported by airplane, the airlines have shown littleregard for the safety of the animals who are entrusted to them,” saidValerie Stanley, ALDF senior staff attorney. “We feel compelled to letconsumers know that they are risking their pets’ lives when they transport themby air.”
Stanley said the summer travel season is the most dangerous time of the yearfor pets to be loaded aboard an airplane. If planes are delayed on the ground,the extreme temperature in an airplane’s cargo hold can cause animals to sufferbrain damage or die due to hypothermia. Some pets are left to swelter ontarmacs. Others are mistakenly freed on the way to or from the plane, where theyare lost or killed.
According to ALDF, although the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the UnitedStates Department of Agriculture (USDA) require that animals be transported in amanner that ensures their safety and well-being, virtually every major airlinehas a long record of flagrant violations of these rules.
The results can be tragic: Five hours after 81 healthy puppies were putaboard a TWA passenger jet en route from Kansas City to St. Louis, baggagehandlers discovered 50 of the puppies were dead due to heat exposure ofsuffocation. When a Continental jet bound for Denver was delayed for three hoursin Philadelphia, three of the five Samoyed dogs being transported in the plane’scargo hold were found dead on arrival. Too many animals needlessly suffer injuryor die each year — and an airline’s only liability for the often gruesome deathof a beloved pet is limited to the value of a piece of luggage.
“The airlines consider payments or USDA fines for an injured or deadanimal as merely a `cost of doing business,'” Stanley said.
Just last December, Stanley noted, United Airlines declined to pay the $4,000medical bill and related expenses incurred by the owner of a dog who sufferedruptured eardrums and other trauma on a flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Unitedcontended that “there was no value declared for this shipment” andhence the airline’s liability was limited to 50 cents per pound for the116-pound “shipment,” or $410.50. United’s letter never onceacknowledged that the “shipment” was a dog.
ALDF, the nation’s only public interest law firm specializing in protectingthe well-being of domestic animals and wildlife, is preparing a petitiondemanding that the USDA adopt stricter regulations and improve conditions foranimals transported by air. Accompanying this demand will be thousands ofpetitions from individuals who want safer conditions for animals traveling inairplanes. In addition, ALDF is asking corporations to put pressure on airlinesby pledging to favor only those carriers that sign ALDF’s cruelty-free pledge totake better care of animals entrusted to them. The Houston Rockets, Frederick’sof Hollywood and John Paul Mitchell Systems have already signed the pledge.
“The skies are not friendly to pets. Most airplane cargo holds areunsafe for animals. Until conditions improve, pet owners should never put theirtreasured companions aboard a plane. Doing so could seal their doom,” saidStanley.
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