By Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
(USA Today) - The Transportation Department wants to expand the reporting of incidents when pets are lost, injured or killed on airline flights.
Currently, only the 15 largest airlines report when animals are involved in these incidents, which total in the dozens each year. But in a proposed rule, to be published Friday in the Federal Register, all airlines with a 60-seat plane would have to begin reporting, which the department says would cover 36 airlines flying 99.6 percent of domestic passengers.
"This new rule is good news for animal lovers," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says. "It will help ensure that all animals can be transported safely and will enable consumers to more accurately compare airlines when it comes to the care provided to their pets in the air."
The reports now cover all incidents involving pets transported by their owners. The proposed rule would expand the reporting to cover all cats and dogs transported as part of a commercial shipment, so it would cover breeders.
Airlines reported 35 deaths, nine injuries and two lost animals during 2011, according to department reports. Through April this year, 12 animals have died and 14 were injured.
Animal-rights advocates welcomed the proposal.
"The Humane Society of the United States is pleased with this proposed rule because it will help regulate transport of dogs for commercial sale, including the importation of puppies out outside of the U.S. and the shipping of puppies by breeders within the U.S.," said Cory Smith, senior director of the group's Pets for Life program.
A department report in July 2010 found that "short-faced" dog breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, represent about half of the dogs that die while being transported by their owners as cargo, a significantly higher rate of mortality than for other dog breeds.
Airlines had reported 122 dog deaths in the five years leading up to that report. But the department said that reflected a small percentage of the total pets transported on planes.
About half the deaths belonged to breeds such as the English bulldog, French bulldog, American Staffordshire terrier and pug.