Take Action: Animals Flown as Cargo Get a First-Class Upgrade

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 11:15am
cat in a carrier

Guest blog written by Deborah Dubow Press, ASPCA Regulatory Affairs Manager.

We frequently hear tragic news stories involving animals traveling in airplane cargo holds, and it’s no wonder—these animals are exposed to lots of dangers in transit. They can be left on the tarmac in the hottest summer months, transported in unsafe carriers that do not meet humane standards, or be carelessly lost in the shuffle of air cargo traffic.

Currently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to report the losses, injuries and deaths of pets only. Reporting requirements exclude commercial shipments of animals—like a batch of puppies heading from a breeder to a pet store. This means that there are many appalling incidents the public never hears about. 

The DOT Responds
A new rule proposed by the DOT could lead to greater transparency by airlines and help give people a clearer picture of the risks involved in transporting animals as cargo. The new rule would require airlines to report incidents involving commercially shipped cats and dogs, as well as more than double the number of airlines required to report incidents.  

While the proposed rule is better than the one in place now, it still has room for improvement. For instance, it doesn’t cover all animals transported as part of a commercial air shipment—only dogs and cats. 

Take Action!
The Department of Transportation is accepting comments until August 28. Please tell them that all animals deserve to be protected during air transport while being shipped as cargo. In your comments, please include the following:

  • You support the DOT’s decision to extend coverage to all dogs and cats.
  • Reporting requirements are essential to inform consumers about the risks associated with transporting animals by air, and people deserve this information so they can make informed decisions about traveling safely with their pets.
  • You want the rule to extend reporting requirements to all animals shipped commercially, not just dogs and cats.

Go to to submit comments directly to the DOT.

Add new comment



Eric Altshuler

While a plane is in flight, conditions in the climate-controlled cargo hold may be acceptable, but one of the worst animal flight tragedies in recent years happened on the tarmac. In January 2011, a hairless Sphynx kitten froze to death after a one-hour delay in removing her from the cargo hold following her flight's landing at Hartford's Bradley Airport. Outside temperature was around 10 degrees F and the cargo hold got cold very rapidly after the aircraft was powered down. Similarly, if a plane has to wait a long time before takeoff, its engines may be shut down to avoid wasting fuel while sitting on the tarmac. I would assume the cargo hold's climate control systems would also not function in this situation. Such delays should be a major concern.

Perhaps a "cottage industry" will emerge with companies providing specialized handling and care for animals being flown. This may be rather expensive, maybe costing even more than the flight itself, but well worth the price if it means superior protection for our pets.

J Brown

i had my boston shipped from arizona to portland, org by atr. when i went to pick her up they couldnt find her, and when they located the shipping crate it was in pieces and my dog hour later security spotted her running accross a field to a fenceline. there were 7 kids with me looking everywhere and when they headed out to call her they were stopped by security. i called her and when she heard me finally she changed direction and headed for me. the security people had set up sharp-shooters to kill my animal that was already freaking and when i overheard, quite by accident, that they were ready to take down the animal all hell broke loose. between my kids and i and about 50 or more passengers that were watching what was going raised so much hell that when two of my girls jumped the no admittance area and went out to get her security weny nuts. we got our dog, i was never reimbursed for the carrior and the security got lashed at. i still do not to this day why the thought of a tranquilizer was never in the process....only shoot to kill. i have often wondered how many animals get poor treatment then pay thr price because employees did not do their job!

Charles Mozitis

Animals requiring transportation via airlines, should be protected the same way as humans. Pets are family members and should be allowed to travel in the passenger compartment with their humans. If they can't, then every effort should be made to care for them and protect them while they air in the hold. Travel can be very stressful to animals, being seperated from their humans only makes the stress worse. When there is a problem and an animal becomes sick or injured or even dies while traveling in the hold, the airlines should be held accountable, be made to publicly report each mishap and a third party investigation needs to take place. This is the only way air travel for pets will improve!

Nancy Herlinger

Years ago, a friend's pet died on the way to a Christmas celebration because a handler put the dog in its carrier in an unpressurized area. I thought the 60's were long gone. I am wrong. Please fix this problem.


My new 8 week old puppy was flown from Georgia to Sacramento, a long flight. Aside from the fact that they no longer allow the poor babies have so much as a toy inside with them, and there is a notice on their crate saying he needed to eat/drink every 2-3 hrs., he arrived with his water all spilled out all over his pee pad and blanket he came with for comfort (it had his mother and litter mates scent on it and i had to wash it immediately), and his food all soaked in it. He was shivering back in a corner. i took him out and poured him some water immediately and held him all the way home. That was his first trip in the car--after the trip to the airport. He is still afraid of car rides 5 yrs. later.


I would definitely fly more if I knew that airlines respect the transport of pets. As of right now, I have driven with my three cat pets for relocation purposes about 5 times being afraid of the airlines' conditions & most times careless personnel they appoint to the cargo area. Just by seeing the cargo personnel I would NOT ever fly my pets. I cringe when I see through the window how laughingly with a buddy, they get bags & pet crates & throw them inside the plane. Please hire new or train existing personnel on respect for others' belongings/pets. AND definitely, increase you pet regulations standards for a decent fly. Trust me, you'd double your profits.

John kilroy

Living things are not luggage.What is wrong with people.If the airlines do not get this then I,ll find other ways to travel.


As a mail carrier, I delivered batches of chicks in the summer time. These animals need to be kept at the appropriate temperature, and given sufficient water for their health.

Linda Kugler

I would never consider allowing either of my dogs to be shipped as cargo. They should be treated in the same manner as human children. Anything less is barbaric. When are people going to wake up and realize that animals have feelings hunger, thirst,joy, happiness, sorrow, lonliness, pain just as we do?

Virginia DiBianco

There should be special place in the cargo area that is temperature controlled and using a monitoring device to check on the animals during the flight. Also, airlines should refuse flying "commercial" cats and dogs to pet stores. Just about all pet stores get the their animals from puppy mills and catteries. These puppy mills and catteries are kept in the poorest conditions possible, and should all be shut down!!