Not So Friendly Skies?

November 2, 2008 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

Thinking about flying your dog to that big show? You may want to reconsider…  This just in from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Maggie Mae, a West Highland white terrier puppy, was crushed to death on the tarmac at Atlanta’s airport this spring, horrifying her new owner.

Federal law requires airlines to report animal deaths, injuries and losses to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But Delta Air Lines didn’t have to report what happened to Maggie Mae.

That’s because the puppy was shipped by a breeder. Her death —- like those of many other animals owned by businesses —- doesn’t count under regulations that contain a loophole sought by the animal and transportation industries.

What? Well, apparently a dog doesn’t count as an “animal” if it’s owned by a business or commercial enterprise. And the airlines are quite happy to take advantage of that loophole.

Airline industry officials say federal reports show accidents involving animals are rare.

But those reported incidents don’t include animals such as Maggie Mae that were shipped by commercial owners. Airlines refused to say how many deaths and other incidents they don’t report to federal officials.

Delta representatives refused to answer when queried about the unreported deaths of non-animals, preferring instead to emphasize that the airline had zero reportable deaths in August and September of this year.

How in the world did regulations get mucked up this way?  Well, again from the Journal Constitution:

The loophole troubles the author of the original reporting law, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Last week, in response to the AJC’s investigation, Menendez sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters seeking answers.

“I believe current policies do not reflect Congressional intent,” he wrote. “I am surprised and disappointed that animals covered by this law have been defined in such a narrow fashion.”

Transportation Department spokesman Bill Adams said Friday that the agency believes its definition of an animal “properly carries out the mandates of the statute.”

It makes one wonder how much pull the airlines have with the department that is allegedly responsible for overseeing their operations…  Of course, the fact that transportation regulations are a tangled mass of loophole-ridden complexities enforced by an amalgam of different state and federal agencies probably doesn’t help either. The FAA, DHS, USDA, OSHA, DoT and others are all important players in airline safety – and it would appear that they don’t play well together at all.

For more information – including an excellent list of tips for safe air travel and information on how to report incidents go read the Atlanta Journal Constitution article.  They also provide information on how to contact congressional members who chair committees that oversee the U.S. Department of Transportation which I will post here:

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 508 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510-6125; or call: 202-224-5115.

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), chairman, Aviation Subcommittee, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 2251 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or call 202-225-9161.


Entry filed under: dogs, safety. Tags: .

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