A proposal to require airlines to report their care of animals gets narrowed by the FAA. Breeders and farmers' animals would be exempt.
By STEVE HUETTEL
Published August 13, 2003
Airlines will be required to report to the government how often pets die or are lost or injured while being shipped as air cargo. But the Federal Aviation Administration rules released Monday apply only to animals kept as pets in people's homes - not those shipped by farmers or breeders to pet shops.
The decision was welcome news to Florida's tropical fish farm industry, which relies on airlines to get its products to retailers across the country and overseas.
A proposed regulation issued last fall covered all animals shipped in commercial airliners. Delta Air Lines wrote the agency that it would consider not accepting animals as cargo if the rule wasn't changed. American Airlines said the proposed regulation would cost $1.8-million a year and pledged to pass on those costs to its cargo customers.
"If this went through as originally proposed, there would have been major repercussions," said Tim Hennessy, president of EkkWill Waterlife Resources in Gibsonton. There are about 200 tropical fish farms in Florida, and they generated $42-million in sales in 2001. Most, like EkkWill, are in or around Hillsborough County.
Not everyone was happy with the final rules. Animal rights advocates were disappointed, saying Congress intended to protect all animals shipped by air.
"We were afraid (the FAA) would interpret the law in the most restrictive fashion," said Lisa Weisberg, senior vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "It doesn't matter if it's an individual's pet or a dog or cat shipped for resale."
Because no one previously required airlines to keep statistics on how many animals die or are injured in transit, the numbers are sharply disputed.
The ASPCA and other animal rights organizations use a figure of 5,000 dead dogs and cats a year, citing a decade-old statement by the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group.
That number is vastly exaggerated, the association says, and includes animals the airlines refused to fly because they appeared ill or lacked a health certificate or approved container.
Under the new rules, which still need approval from the Office of Management and Budget, airlines will report monthly on pets that are lost, injured or die in their custody. The statistics will be published by the Department of Transportation along with other consumer information, such as on-time flights and mishandled luggage.