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Traveling Pet Protections Approved

March 16, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ New rules will require U.S. airlines to compile and release information on traveling pets that are killed or injured.

The requirements are part of an aviation bill approved by the Senate on March 8 and by the Senate on Wednesday. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said President Clinton will sign it into law.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hailed ``a stunning win for animals that must travel by air.″ But the airline industry warned some airlines may choose to stop accepting animals.

Congress took on the issue in response to reports of pets hurt or killed by rough handling on the ground, or by temperature extremes and oxygen depletion in the air. Under the new rules, domestic airlines will have to begin reporting animal losses, injuries or deaths to the federal Department of Transportation.

The Air Transport Association says that ``more than 99 percent of the estimated 500,000 dogs and cats that airlines handle each year″ reach their destination without incident. Critics say that means up to 5,000 pets are hurt, killed or lost each year; the industry says the 1 percent or less includes cases of pets turned away due to inadequate cages or veterinary papers.

The agriculture department reported in 1998 that, in the previous five years, it had documented 2,516 instances of dogs and cats ``severely affected″ by extreme temperatures, with 108 dogs and cats dying as a result.

In one 1997 case, Donna and Stephen Calk of Denver, Colo., went to baggage claim after a flight from New Jersey to Los Angeles and found their golden retriever, Jed, not breathing and covered in urine, feces, and vomit. An autopsy revealed the dog had died of suffocation due to lack of oxygen.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., used the Calks’ ``horror story″ to push for passage of the rules.

Under the new law:

_The DOT will work with airlines to improve employee training with respect to transport of animals.

_Airlines will have to notify passengers about the conditions in which animals travel.

_Airlines will have to submit monthly reports to the DOT on animals lost, injured or killed, and the DOT will publish the information.

Most major airlines now accept animals as baggage, sometimes for a fee.

Diana Cronan, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, called the final package of rules ``reasonable″ but said some airlines may choose simply to stop accepting animals as cargo.

``That’s provided as an additional customer service for passengers,″ she said.

The American Kennel Club had opposed the legislation on the same grounds, fearing that fewer airlines would agree to transport pets in the future.

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