- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

ATLANTA
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is urging holiday travelers to think twice before loading the family pet onto a plane.
The ASPCA estimates that 5,000 animals are injured, killed or lost each year by airlines. The airlines dispute that figure, although they can't give a different number because no one keeps such records. That could be changing.
In September, the Federal Aviation Administration issued proposed regulations that would require passenger airlines to track incidents involving family pets or any animal transported to be sold as a family pet. The rules stemmed from legislation signed by President Clinton in April 2000 that would require airlines to issue monthly reports on incidents involving animals and to train baggage handlers to transport animals safely.
The FAA is accepting comments on the plan through Dec. 27 and already is meeting resistance.
"We aren't opposed to reporting, but we're trying to keep it reasonable," said Diana Cronan, spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association of America, the national trade organization for the principal U.S. airlines.
Miss Cronan said airlines can't be expected to count every guppy in a shipment of thousands or every mouse destined for research or a pet store. But animal rights groups say the airlines for years have treated pets like pieces of luggage. If an animal dies or is injured, the owner cannot receive more than $2,500 in compensation, the maximum allowed for a lost bag. No statistics on the number of injured, lost or killed animals are available because they are reported as lost luggage.
Lisa Weisberg with the ASPCA said stories of pets dying of heat exhaustion or freezing to death in the cargo holds of planes are common. Animals are shipped in the same area as luggage, although usually partitioned off from other items. The cargo holds are pressurized and usually receive some warmth at high elevations from air flowing from the cabins and from engine heat, but often not at comfortable levels. Problems arise if a plane is kept on the ground for long periods of time with no air circulation.
"Right now, there's really nothing that motivates the airlines to make any improvements," Miss Weisberg said. "You're really playing Russian roulette with your pet."
A California man is so concerned with the problem that he is trying to introduce an airline for animals. Rick Roof would use small jets that could hold up to six persons and 12 animals. He is awaiting FAA certification for Pet Air and hopes to have his first flight next year.
"I've been amazed at the emotion and passion the idea has generated," he said.
Some airlines started changing their policies voluntarily soon after Mr. Clinton signed the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act. Many airlines ban pets in the cargo holds during the hot summer months or during cold snaps, some won't accept animals at all and others require long-term reservations and higher fees to take along four-footed family members.
Jean DeWolfe, a breeder of cocker spaniels from Nova Scotia, said she has been shipping 15 to 25 dogs a year for 20 years and has had only one dog injured. "The crate fell off a conveyor belt," she said.
She also has had several dogs miss connections or be forgotten in cargo holds.

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