Fuzzy Rules Have Pet Owners Chasing Their Tails

Article excerpt

Byline: Gail Todd

Last month on an American Airlines flight, a pit bull terrier chewed his way out of his crate in the cargo hold and found something he could really sink his teeth into. The raging bull gnawed through some communication cables.

He got completely wired and turned the place into a zoo. Now pit bulls and some other breeds considered aggressive are no longer welcome on American Airlines flights.

Pet profiling isn't new. Many airlines banned pug-nosed dogs, such as English bulldogs and Dutch pugs, because of respiratory problems years ago. Other airlines, such as Continental, refuse travel to animals deemed as troublemakers: venomous snakes, exotic animals and monkeys.

During the dog days of summer, Delta Airlines has an embargo on all pets traveling as baggage. Other carriers refuse transport to animals when the temperatures reach the high 80s - and with good reason.

Traveling can be quite stressful for animals and their owners. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, nearly 5,000 pets suffer each year when they fly. Two years ago, because of pressure from the ASPCA, Congress passed the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act, which required stricter temperature controls and environmental conditions when the fur flies.

According to the regulations, an animal may not fly if it will be subjected to temperatures exceeding 85 degrees for more than 45 minutes at either the departure or arrival destination. The laws might have improved flying conditions for animals, but they have caused headaches for the airlines.

Complying with the regulations is expensive, so some airlines choose to eliminate the problem by grounding animals at risk and limiting travel to optimum weather conditions. The problem is, each airline handles it in a different way. At this time, Southwest refuses all animals except service or guide dogs. …