Senators To U.S. DOT: Revise Airplane-Related Animal Death Policy

From NMT Images

When James Hough’s pet puppy, Iagan, died on Delta flight #125 from Brussels to Atlanta in February, he was devastated.

But not paralyzed. He confronted Delta, which initially offered him $1,800 in compensation.

But Hough wanted answers, not money, so he persisted in trying to determine just how his dog died. He asked to see the original crate Iagan was carried in.

Instead, Delta sent a brand new crate, representing it as the original one.
Hough challenged Delta, which then withdrew its compensation offer and hired an attorney to deal with the situation.

Hough isn’t sure exactly how his puppy died. No one at the airlines was especially forthcoming.

He suspects it was trauma, and he’s probably right.

Technorati managed to get hold of a letter from US Senator Robert Menendez (D NJ) to the US Department of Transportation, in which the Senator recounts a report by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter about the death of Maggie Mae, a West Highland terrier puppy crushed to death by baggage equipment on another Delta flight.

The death was not reported because of a loose interpretation of the law which requires that the Department of Transportation (DOT) report only the deaths of animals considered as “pets.”

Maggie did not fit the definition of “animal,” according to Senator Menendez’s letter, because she was being shipped by a breeder to her new home in New Hampshire, and thus not yet a pet. And Hough’s Iagan was not considered a pet under the law because he too was in transit to Hough’s home from a breeder.

Menendez, according to Aviation Week joined forces with Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to change the law so that all cat and dog deaths are reported, no matter who is shipping them or whatever their classification.

In a formal letter to DOT Secretary, Ray LaHood, the Senators are are asking that the gaps in the current reporting regulations be closed

As we reported a few weeks ago, DOT revealed that that since May 2005, there have been 122 dog deaths, 22 deaths of other pets, and 88 lost or injured pets.

As it stands now, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for investigating and enforcing The Animal Welfare Act, but only when the Department of Transportation submits a case for investigation, and currently the law doesn’t go far enough, according to the Senators and advocates of animal welfare.

In his letter to DOT, Senator Menendez makes it clear that the intent of Congress was to “protect all animals being transported on airplanes and to increase transparency of airline safety records so consumers can evaluate airline carriers and make informed decisions.”

In a personal interview with Hough, he said, “Although I cannot change Iagan’s fate, I’m sure there are hundreds of horror stories such as mine. I encourage people to contact their own elected officials and demand that the U.S. Department of Transportation re-define the definition of “pets” and hold the airlines accountable for their actions.”

We hope Secretary LaHood is listening.

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Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on August 20, 2010 at 10:43pm
Thanks , James. We communicated about this off line. Stay in touch!
Comment by Jim Hough on August 20, 2010 at 9:12pm
This was Iagan before her untimely death

Jim Hough

Comment by Jim Hough on August 20, 2010 at 9:02pm
Allie, I too read opinion concerning the Senate letter to the DOT. I agree with Kaleel that if the actual number of animal deaths are reported, and suspicious deaths or injuries investigated, commerical airlines would handle the animals with much more caution.

Additionally, only stronger reporting requirements will increase enforcement of The Animal Welfare Act. When defenseless animals are mis-treated during transport, airlines should be held accountable.

Thanks for caring,

Jim Hough
Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on August 20, 2010 at 5:08pm
Allie, I referenced in another piece here and on Technorati when the DOT first reported animal deaths. It's on Tripatini still.

I think the CEO is mixing apples and oranges. He's right, his company and others are a viable alternatives to crating a pet for cargo travel,

But he's wrong in suggesting the Senators' request to DOT won't make pet travel safer. The reporting and publicity may well drive customers to his site and products, but it will male the airlines more transparent and subject to scrutiny. Maybe safer. For pets.
Thanks for writing in!
Comment by Allie McCoy on August 20, 2010 at 4:55pm
The CEO of a company called is objecting to the Senators' statements. He says, ""While concerns about the reporting of pet fatalities voiced by Senators Menendez, Durbin, and Lieberman are valid, changing the way airlines report the deaths of pets will not save lives in the long run.

"Our national focus should be on proactive ways to make pet travel safer and acknowledging that professional pet travel companies help pet owners avoid tragic mistakes, like using crates that are not adequately ventilated or booking pets on airlines that are not able to safely accommodate animals."

I cannot tell if he is right or if he is just looking to sell his own products and services.

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