Safe Air Travel for Animals Act questioned
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:
BOSTON–Eighteen months after the Safe Air Travel for Animals
Act took effect, five years after becoming federal law, observers
are beginning to ask whether it serves any useful purpose.
The law requires airlines to report losses or deaths of pet
animals in transit, previously reported voluntarily.
“Since June 2005,” wrote Boston Globe reporter Peter J. Howe
on November 3, 2006, “airlines have reported only 74 pet incidents,
involving roughly just 0.01 percent of all animals carried in cargo
holds during that period, a review of reports filed at the U.S.
Transportation Department found.”
Prior to the passage of the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act,
airlines reported from 25 to 75 animal incidents per year, with only
116 incidents in the four years before Senator Frank Lautenberg
(D-New Jersey) introduced the prototype of the Act in 1992.
“When activists were pushing for the disclosure rules in the
1990s,” Howe recalled, “they widely claimed that U.S. airlines lost
or killed up to 5,000 pets a year. The explanation? Animal rights
groups had extrapolated the 5,000 figure from industry claims that
99% or more of the estimated 500,000 animals who ride in airplane
cargo holds each year reach their destination safely.
“Of the 74 reported pet incidents reviewed by the Globe,”
Howe noted, “almost all involved defective kennels that allowed
animals to escape, often to be run over by tarmac baggage trains, or
animals who were old or sick and died in flight or soon after.”
The federal legislation was the result of more than 40 years
of regulatory effort initiated by Fay Brisk of the Animal Welfare
Institute, beginning just as jet travel began to take animals
unprecedentedly high and far, in unheated and unmonitored cargo
space. Over time, Brisk and many others who took up the cause
greatly improved airline animal handling. The 2005 law helps to
reinforce the high standards that had already been achieved, for
pets at least, though mass deaths in transit involving poultry and
small laboratory animals still come to light.