By: Staff  Date: 12/8/2002 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues | Feline Issues |

More than two years ago, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2000 that directed the Federal Aviation Administration to write rules for a reporting system to be used by airlines when animals escaped, were injured, or died while in airline custody.

The rules change was the result of a campaign by animal rights activists on behalf of a bill that would have required millions of dollars to retrofit cargo holds, imposed an onerous reporting process for each animal scheduled to fly, and almost certainly have caused air carriers to eliminate the shipping of animals altogether. The activists claimed that 5000 animals were lost, injured, or died annually in airline custody, but an examination of reports showed that this claim was a gross distortion of the record.

The burdensome provisions in the bill were ultimately dropped and the final version required only that airlines report animal injury, loss, or death. However, the proposed rule still has the potential to cause hardship for the airlines and for those who ship animals and would introduce the concept of animal guardianship in federal regulations for the first time.

NAIA submitted the following comment to FAA in regard to the proposal.

December 19, 2002

Docket Management System
US Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., SW, PL- 401
Washington, D.C. 20590-0001

Comments on Docket No. FAA-2002-13378

The National Animal Interest Alliance is a coalition of animal owners and organizations dedicated to animal welfare, responsible animal ownership, and maintaining the rights of owners to keep and enjoy pets and livestock. We have reviewed the proposal for rulemaking to require airlines to report incidents involving animals in their care and offer the following comments.

NAIA supports continued access to safe airline transport for animals traveling as cargo or excess baggage and the reporting of serious incidents involving the health and safety of the animals involved, and we believe that the proposed regulation has the potential of limiting or eliminating that access by making it difficult for airlines to comply and cost-prohibitive for owners to fly their animals.

Specifically: Sec. 119.72 (a) "Any air carrier that provides scheduled passenger air transportation shall, ... submit ... a report on any incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of an animal during air transport provided by the air carrier. Describing "animal" as "any warm or cold blooded animal ... kept as a pet in a family household ... or ... transported for the purpose of being sold as a pet... " places a burden on airlines to report incidents on all animals kept or sold as pets, including fish, birds, reptiles, and small mammals that may be shipped in bulk between suppliers and pet stores, and a single death or injury could take weeks to investigate and resolve. It would be far easier for airlines to eliminate some or all animal shipping than to devote personnel and time to comply with this directive. In addition, the definition of 'incident' is overly broad and could be construed as requiring investigation if an animal inflicts an injury on itself despite the precautions taken by the owner, the consignment company, or the airline.

Sec. 119.72 (b) 3 and 4 are unacceptable because they invade the privacy of animal owners.

Sec. 119.72 (b) 4 codifies 'guardian' for the first time in federal government regulations. 'Guardian' is a legal term that applies to responsibility for humans who are unable to care for themselves. Guardians are appointed by the courts. Animals are property purchased or otherwise acquired by their owners in private transactions and are not subject to court action unless a violation of law has occurred. However, animal rights activists who believe

that owning animals is the same as owning slaves are waging a national campaign to replace 'owner' with 'guardian' in laws and regulations. Including 'guardian' in federal regulations sets a precedent they can use to increase government control over the rights of citizens to keep animals and to make decisions about their care.

Sec. 119.72 (c) 1 does not take into account that the person shipping the animal or the person accepting the animal on arrival may not be the animal owner. Many owners use agents to handle animal shipments. For example, dogs shipped for breeding or to professional handlers are picked up by someone designated by the owner, and pets may be shipped to new homes by professional transport companies under contract with the animal owner.

The objection to 'guardian' is noted above.

The definition of animal given in Sec. 119.72 (c) 2 is far too broad. Animal rights activists distort incident reports to convince the general public that airline travel is unsafe for animals and to bring pressure on airlines to stop accepting animals as cargo. Therefore, any definition that requires reporting of all injuries regardless of seriousness or cause will be exploited by groups who oppose the shipment of animals.

NAIA therefore suggests regulation language that:

  1. Requires reporting of critical injuries, loss, or death
  2. Requires an airline investigation and a detailed report only if requested by the animal owner or agent or if a breach in handling practices is suspected
  3. Eliminates 'guardian' and adds 'agent' or 'consignor' to 'owner' as the party responsible for the animal before and after shipping
  4. Does not require the name of the animal owner or the animal itself.

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