Airline Tarmac Delay Rule Needed For Pets After 7 Puppies Died


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Airline Tarmac Delay Rule Needed For Pets After 7 Puppies Died

By Jim Douglas

August 6, 2010 - On Tuesday, some time before 6:30 AM, American Airlines personnel placed 14 puppies in the belly of a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 on American Airlines Flight 851 which was to depart Tulsa International, Oklahoma to Chicago at 6:35 AM.  Due to thunderstorms in the Chicago area Flight 851 was delayed until 7:30 AM and by that time the outside temperature was already 86 degrees. 

American Airlines Flight 851 arrived in at Chicago O'Hare International at 8:57 AM, a 1 hour 27 minutes flight. Sometime after landing, American Airlines baggage handlers took the puppies off the aircraft and noticed the animals looked ill. All 14 puppies were taken to a vet where five puppies had died and two other puppies died later that day. Several of the puppies had connecting flights.


On August 8, 2009, ExpressJet Airlines operating as Continental Airlines Flight 2816 sat on the tarmac at Rochester International Airport overnight with 47 passengers in sweltering heat with no air-conditioning. As a result of this fight and similar incidents congress passed the ?Tarmac Rule? a consumer protection law which prohibits airlines from allowing passengers to remain seated on the tarmac for no more than 3 hours.  

The Department of Transportation?s Aviation Enforcement Office sets precedent back on November 24, 2009, by issuing the first ever enforcement orders against an airline for stranding passengers for an unreasonable amount of time and Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines were fined $100,000.

It is clear that no one was looking out for the interest of these puppies or the owners of these dogs. The airlines need to stop treating pets as luggage. American Airlines policy for the carriage of pets stipulates that if the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees C) at any location on the itinerary the airline will not provide transportation and Snub-nosed dogs such as the Pekingese, bulldog, or pug and cats will not be accepted when the current or forecasted temperature is above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.8 degrees C) at any location on the itinerary.

The recommended temperature for pets flying in the belly of the aircraft should be between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit otherwise it becomes life threatening. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that owners avoid shipping pets in the cargo hold of an aircraft. If an aircraft is delayed on the ground and there are animals in the cargo belly it can be very dangerous as temperature can fluctuate dramatically in a short time and there is no circulation of fresh air.


However, if the aircraft is in flight it will be pressurized, temperatures constant and there will be a constant flow of fresh air. If you have ever sat on a plane on the tarmac at any length of time, you know how hot it can get inside an aircraft. Veterinarians advise dog owners of Pekingese, bulldog, or pug should not allow their dogs to fly. As these dogs have a  pug-nose and it becomes very difficult for these breeds of dogs to breath at high altitudes and or in the cold.

In 2005, U.S. airlines have been required by law to file monthly reports to the Department of Transportation on incidents involving the death, injury or loss of pets during air transport. During the last five years there have been 122 dog deaths reported.


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