Airline Regulations


Consumers will finally be able to assess the animal safety record of airlines when making vacation plans that include family pets.

After five years of delays, the federal government has adopted a final rule to implement a law Congress passed in March 2000 requiring commercial airlines to report incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of an animal during transport. Previously, incidents were simply included in the lost baggage reports.

“This provision should increase the public's ability to gauge an airline's safety record when transporting animals, a barometer that has been unavailable until now,” said Mimi Brody, federal affairs director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “When this rule takes effect, the public will have a better opportunity to understand the extent of the risks in general and to compare the care afforded by specific airlines. We hope it will also encourage airlines to go the extra mile in assuring that animals receive safe treatment.”

The new rule took effect June 15. Airlines will be required to submit specific information to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) within 15 days of the end of the month an incident occurs. The reports will be made public through DOT’s monthly publication Air Travel Consumer Report, available online at

According to the DOT, more than “two million pets and live animals are transported by air every year in the United States.” The HSUS has received numerous complaints about animals who were lost, injured or died due to extreme heat or cold temperatures, lack of oxygen, or rough handling while being transported in commercial airline cargo holds.

Despite the new rule, The HSUS still recommends avoiding the transport of pets in airplane cargo holds unless absolutely necessary, given the dangers of such travel.

“Although The Humane Society of the United States believes that leaving a pet at home or at a responsible boarding kennel is the safest thing to do, we realize that people do sometimes fly with companion animals. If taking your pet on an airplane is unavoidable, considerable planning and research should be done well in advance of actually booking a flight, and we recommend that people make every effort to bring pets into the cabin of the plane when flying,”said Kelly Connolly, issues specialist for the companion animals division of The HSUS.

The HSUS is the nation's largest animal protection organization with nearly nine million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animals and sustainable agriculture. The HSUS protects all animals through education, advocacy, litigation, investigation, legislation and fieldwork. The non-profit organization is based in Washington, DC and has regional offices across the country.

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