By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation | Animal Rights Extremism | Canine Issues |

Last summer, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a bill that jeopardized the shipping of animals by air. The bill was reported to committee but went nowhere.

On October 5, Lautenberg amended the bill's language into S82, the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, and animal rights activists are campaigning hard for its passage.  The Senate conducted no study, hearings or debate over the summer on the Lautenberg bill, and the addition of his bill to the FAA reauthorization was adopted by voice vote without discussion or debate.

The amendment requires airlines to submit paperwork to the Secretary of Transportation every time an animal is scheduled to fly, to train personnel to handle animals, to report any incident involving animals to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Transportation, to notify animal owners of animal handling plans and safety records, and to install heating and cooling systems in cargo holds carrying animals. Penalties for violation range from a fine of $5000 per incident to a cease and desist order. If guilty of an infraction, airlines must also compensate the animal owner for the loss and for veterinary bills incurred as a result of the incident.

The campaign to pass the Lautenberg amendment is not new. Airlines have been under pressure from animal rights groups for years because they transport animals for the pet trade. In 1998, USDA declined to change temperature standards for housing and transporting dogs and cats as requested by activists but did set regulations on airlines that require cargo areas that are "heated or cooled as necessary to maintain an ambient temperature that ensures the well-being of dogs and cats," provide ventilation in cargo areas handling animals when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, and take care to minimize stress when handling animals.

This year, activists have distorted a report from the Air Transportation Association to bolster their effort. ATA reported that "The airlines have an excellent record transporting pets, which they consider an important aspect of their business. More than 99 percent of the estimated 500,000 dogs and cats that the airlines handle each year reach their destination in good health and without any problems." The ASPCA and other groups seized on the under one percent of shipments that encounter unspecified problems of one kind or another, and parlayed the report into an attention-getting bonanza by claiming that 5000 animals are injured or killed each year by airlines.

Based on the facts, the National Animal Interest Alliance strongly disagrees with these sensationalized claims and opposes  the "Safe Air Travel for Animals Act" in the conference report on the FAA reauthorization bill. The American Kennel Club, Cat Fanciers' Association and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council also oppose it.  These animal advocate groups note that the problems referred to in the ATA report include for the most part things such as airline refusals to board pets without health certificates, rejections based on unapproved shipping crates, destination temperatures, over limit for excess baggage, or other conditions that are part of existing regulations.

Patti Strand, NAIA's national director, points to the unfortunate reality that national animal rights organizations that depend on public donations for their existence rely on media-worthy topics such as this one to draw attention to themselves and raise funds.  "If the perceptions fostered by groups such as the ASPCA were true, we'd all support the Lautenberg Amendment.  Who would not support a bill that could prevent the loss, injury or death of 5000 pets each year?  The problem is, the campaign for this amendment relies on misrepresentations of existing pet transport problems and if passed could actually cause more harm than good."

In an attempt to unscramble the misinformation circulating about the safely of air travel for pets, the ATA Director of Cargo explained:

"When considering the statement 'without any problems,' problems mean such things as a dog or cat being turned away by an air carrier because: the kennel does not meet USDA requirements for the size of the animal and the passenger/shipper has to purchase or obtain a larger one in order for the pet to be permitted to fly; because there is no health certificate; because temperatures are extremely high/low; because the pet is obviously ill; because the passenger fails to advise the airline that a pet will be accompanying him/her and the flight cannot board additional kennels because of the number of pets and/or other animals already booked on the flight..."

Dog and cat owners should call, fax or e-mail the conferees listed below immediately and ask that they NOT include the Lautenberg amendment known as the "Safe Air Travel for Animals Act" in the conference report on the FAA reauthorization bill (HR 1000 in the House, S 82 in the Senate). This legislation should not be considered for adoption without full discussion and debate.

Conferees for the FAA Reauthorization Act (S 82/HR 1000)

Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA) 202-225-2431 (fax)202-225-2486 none

Don Young (R-AK) 202-225-5765 (fax)202-225-0425

Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) 202-225-2476 (fax)202-225-2356

Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) 202-225-5435 (fax)202-225-6440

Rep. Thomas Ewing (R-IL) 202-225-2371 (fax)202-225-8071 none

Rep. Steve Horn (R-CA) 202-225-6676 (fax)202-226-1012

Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY) 202-225-3306 (fax)202-226-0347 none

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) 202-225-3831 (fax)202-225-5144

Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH) 202-225-5206 (fax)202-225-2946

Rep. Edward Peas (R-IN) 202-225-5805 (fax)202-225-5794

Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) 202-225-5614 (fax)202-225-6234 none

Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) 202-225-6211 (fax)202-225-0699

Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-WV) 202-225-3452 (fax)202-225-9061

Rep. William O. Lipinski (D-IL) 202-225-5701 (fax)202-225-1012 none

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) 202-225-6416 (fax)202-226-3502

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) 202-225-5661 (fax)202-225-0285

Rep. Pat Danner (D-MO) 202-225-7041 (fax)202-225-8221

Rep. E. Bernice Johnson (D-TX) 202-225-8885 (fax)202-226-1477

Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) 202-225-7924 (fax)202-225-7924

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) 202-225-3806 (fax)202-225-5608

Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) 202-225-6531 (fax)202-225-3013

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT0 202-225-5541 (fax)202-225-9629

Rep. John Spratt, Jr. (D-SC) 202-225-5501 (fax)202-225-0464

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 202-224-2235 (fax)202-228-2862

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) 202-224-3004 (fax)202-224-2354

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) 202-224-2644 (fax)202-224-8594

Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) 202-224-3441 (fax)202-224-9393

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) 202-224-6253 (fax)202-224-2262

Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) 202-224-6121 (fax)202-224-4293 none

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) 202-224-3934 (fax)202-224-6747

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) 202-224-6472 (fax)202-224-7665

Sen. J. Robert Kerrey (D-NE) 202-224-6551 (fax)202-224-7645 none

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) 202-224-6621 (fax)202-224-7371

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) 202-224-4744 (fax)202-224-9707

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) 202-224-3744 (fax)202-224-6020

Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) 202-224-5754 (fax)202-224-6008

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) 202-224-2043 (fax)202-224-7776

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