Airlines to report loss or harm to pets during transport

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A new federal aviation rule will require passenger airlines to submit to the Department of Transportation monthly reports of incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of an animal during air transport.

News stories of pets lost or harmed while in the custody of airlines spurred Congress to call on air carriers to improve their cargo holds, train personnel, and report negative incidents involving animals. Negligent airlines would face stiff penalties.

After airlines complained about the proposed regulations, Congress passed the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century, which contained only the provision concerning reporting procedures.

The Transportation secretary was directed to report any loss, injury, or death of a pet during transport. The Transportation and Agriculture secretaries were required to enter into a memorandum of understanding to ensure sharing of this information.

In addition, the Transportation secretary would be responsible for publishing this information in a manner comparable with other consumer complaint data.

The final rule, published in the Aug. 11 Federal Register, directs air carriers to submit monthly reports on the loss, injury, or death of a pet to the Transportation Secretary through the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

APHIS will process the reports and forward relevant information to the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings for monthly publication in the Air Travel Consumer Report. The term "animal" is limited to an animal that is being kept as a pet in a family household in the United States.

At press time in September, the rule was pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget and had not yet gone into effect.