New Rules Proposed for Animal Transport

New Rules Proposed for Animal Transport

Dogs and cats can’t fly in temperatures over 90 degrees if USDA proposals pass muster

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 03/19/1997 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues |

The US Department of Agriculture is proposing several changes in the Animal Welfare Act, including a new rule that would prohibit air transport of dogs and cats if the ambient air temperature reaches 90 degrees at any point in the journey. Approval of the rule will effectively eliminate travel for dogs and cats through the summer in most of the nation and for longer periods in the south.

The current regulations forbid travel if the air temperature reaches 85 degrees for four consecutive hours at any point during the journey. According to USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, "We are taking these actions because . . . the current temperature requirements have proven difficult to enforce."

Proponents of the change include animal rights groups whose agenda includes eliminating commercial dog and cat dealers; opponents include the American Kennel Club and the Air Transport Association. APHIS animal health technician Steve Smith said that the rule may be rewritten in light of the comments that have been received. No comments were received in favor of the proposed rule change.

The new regulation affects kennels and businesses licensed by USDA to transport animals. Kennel owners will be required to provide air conditioning or increased ventilation inside facilities to keep temperatures below 90 degrees or to keep the animals in sheltered outside runs that provide access to "fresh air, air movement, shade, and other climatic and environmental factors which help to alleviate suffering from high temperatures." Transporters will be required to avoid situations in which the temperature could rise to 90 degrees.

However, although dogs have suffered from inadequate ventilation when airplanes have been held on the ground for long periods, APHIS does not base its proposal on any studies or statistics that show that dogs and cats suffer or die at temperatures above 90 degrees - or even that they suffer at temperatures above 85 degrees for four consecutive hours.

"In our opinion, these measures have no appropriate reason for implementation," said Frank J. Black, director of cargo services for the Air Transport Association of America. "In fact, we submit that there is a complete lack of evidence that a problem exists. If adopted, the new temperature requirements will have a most unfortunate effect, making it practically impossible at certain times of the year in most of the airport cities in the United States for pets to accompany their owners or for them to be shipped on aircraft."
Temperature study

A study done by the Office of Aviation Medicine of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1987 indicates that dogs can safely tolerate temperatures in excess of 90 degrees for six hours depending on the relative humidity in the enclosure. The study was done with male beagles. The dogs tolerated 95 degrees with relative humidity of 50 percent and 100 degrees with relative humidity of 30 percent for six hours when kept in crates that were 14 percent open to allow for air circulation.

The study measured the dogs' body temperature throughout the six hour test. Temperatures reached a peak within the first hour of transport when the dogs were most active and settled down when the dogs did.

"Healthy dogs transported in USDA-approved shipping kennels with no less that 14 percent overall ventilation capacity should be expected to safely tolerate air temperatures of 100 degrees or less during six hours of transport, provided proper consideration is given to the humidity of the shipping environment," the study concluded.
AKC's response

The majority of AKC breeders are not licensed by the USDA under the Animal Welfare Act, but the new rule will affect them because it applies to the airlines that transport dogs to shows, trials, and new homes.

"We do not have data on the number of bitches, puppies, or exhibits which are shipped by air each year, but air shipment is very common and the potential impact of these regulations is clearly substantial," said AKC legislative liaison James Holt in a letter to USDA. "The proposed rule would preclude dogs or cats from being shipped by air at all when the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit because it would be a practical impossibility to assure that the dog was not exposed to the ambient temperature for at least brief periods of time during the holding, transit, and loading operations. Furthermore, air carriers would likely have to set an even lower threshold than that included in the regulations for accepting dogs for air transit to assure that temperatures at intermediate points or the final destination did not rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In effect, this rule would prevent air transport of dogs from, to, or through many airports for substantial portions of the year and would have a particularly severe impact in the south."

Holt also cited the 1987 study in his letter on behalf of AKC, and noted that APHIS had commissioned a study on the effect of temperatures on animals during shipment but drafted the new rule before it received a report on the study.

AKC representatives attended two of the three workshops held to provide information for writing new rules. The third of the series held in Washington DC in early April included the most participants involved in air transport of animals, yet the report of that meeting was not made available until August 26, only eight days before the close of the original comment period. AKC and the Air Transport Association therefore asked for an extension.

"The workshops did not produce data on incidence of problems nor data that would help establish revised standards," Holt wrote. "A few participants in the workshops vociferously suggested that there were numerous incidents of injury and death of dogs and cats during air transport, but no evidence to support these allegations was produced and it was clear that the majority of participants in the air transport session did not concur with these allegations.

"If APHIS is going to use the workshop format to justify specific rulemaking, rather than merely as a mechanism for gathering opinions, it must develop a mechanism to assure that reasonable standards of accountability are imposed on workshop participants so that workshop input can be properly evaluated and not be overly influenced by aggressive and excessively vocal interest groups."

Holt closed his letter with a request that APHIS forget about changes in the air temperature rules until the agency analyzes scientific data and provides specific information on the incidence of death or distress from high temperatures.
Other pending changes

Along with air temperature changes, APHIS has written two new rules to eliminate tethering of dogs as a primary housing method at licensed kennels and to end the use of bare wire as cage flooring. Since few kennels tether dogs, this change will have little or no effect.

APHIS estimates that most licensed operators use wire flooring in housing because it is easier to clean than solid flooring. Since coated wire costs up to three times as much as bare wire, kennel owners will have a two-year grace period in which to make the switch. Any new construction done more than 30 days after the rules change must be done with coated wire, and any bare wire that wears out after 30 days must be replaced with coated wire.

The cost of conversion is estimated to increase costs by at least 60 percent.
Heat waves

Temperatures can exceed 90 degrees in most states for up to 30 days each year, in many states for up to 90 days per year, and in several states for more than 90 days per year, according to the USA Today Weather Almanac.

Substantial portions of WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, NM, AZ, UT, CO, MT, WY, CO, SD, IL, KY, TN, NC, WV, and MD, and most or all of ND, MN, IA, WI, MI, IN, OH, PA, NJ, NY, MA, CT, ME, RI, and NH reach 90 degrees-plus for up to 30 days each year.

Portions of WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, AZ, NM, UT, CO, MT, SD, IA, AR, LA, TN, GA, NC, VA, MD, NJ, and DE and most of NE, KS, MO, IL, and KY reach 90 degrees-plus for up to 59 days each year.

Portions of CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, UT, KS, OK, AR, TN, MS, AL, GA, FL, SC, and NC reach 90 degrees-plus for up to 89 days each year.

Most of TX, LA, GA, and FL and portions of CA, AZ, AR, and NM reach 90 degrees for more than 90 days each year.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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