U.S. Senators Urge DOT to Fix Airline Pet Incident Reporting

Monday, September 27, 2010 - 11:15am

The tragic deaths of seven puppies in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet in early August sparked outrage across the country and shed light on a serious defect in the way the Department of Transportation (DOT) has been tracking and reporting pet-related incidents on commercial flights.

Because the DOT interprets the relevant U.S. law (49 U.S.C. § 41721) as applying only to animals considered “pets,” commercial airlines are not required to report losses, injuries or deaths of animals who are considered “not owned” at the time of their transport—this includes dogs shipped by breeders and puppy mills, as well as show dogs being transported by handlers.

In response, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) have submitted a joint letter to Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, asserting that the DOT’s “flawed interpretation of laws” has allowed reporting of many airline animal incidents—such as the deaths of the seven puppies in August—to “slip through the cracks.” The senators propose that the DOT review and expand its definitions and regulations to better reflect the intent of Congress that all animal-related airline incidents be reported, regardless of the ownership status of the shipped animals.

The ASPCA would like to remind pet parents that shipping a pet in an airplane’s cargo hold can endanger the animal’s safety. Dog breeds with short or flat noses (“brachycephalic” breeds) like Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs face particular risk—the DOT reports that these breeds represent about half the pet dogs who die in flight while being transported by their guardians as cargo. If you must transport your pet in this manner, please review our Air Travel Tips.