Airline group offers program to standardize animal transportation in wake of dog death

American Airlines grounds crew unload a dog from the cargo area of an arriving flight at JFK International airport in New York in 2012. An airline trade group has created a program that certifies airlines meet standards for transporting animals.
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

A French bulldog died after the pooch was stored in an overhead bin on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York.

A day later, United conceded that it mistakenly shipped another dog that was bound for Kansas City, Mo., from Oregon, to Japan.

Now an international airline trade group has unveiled a program to certify airlines, cargo companies and other organizations meet the highest safety standards for transporting live animals.

The International Air Transport Assn. said last week that it created the program with the help of industry experts, including veterinarians and government agencies, to offer a voluntary certification program that sets new standards beyond the basic government regulations.


The trade group had been developing the program long before the latest dog scandal at United Airlines, said IATA spokesman Perry Flint. But he noted that the certification would show that airlines that transport many animals meet the highest standards set by experts.

Since the program was announced last week, Air Canada and the city of London have started to undergo audits to win certification, Flint said. The certification, which ensures certain training, procedures, equipment and animal documentation is in place, lasts for 36 months.

Following the death of the French bulldog, United Airlines issued a statement saying the flight attendant who ordered the dog carrier into the overhead bin didn’t know a dog was inside but that contention has been disputed by the dog’s owners.

The Chicago-based carrier also said it plans to give passengers, starting this month, brightly colored bag tags to help flight attendants identify onboard luggage that contain pets.


In response to the new IATA program, United spokesman Charles Hobart said the airline is still reviewing its own procedures and will “consider any reasonable recommendation that improves the overall safety and comfort of all animals that we fly.”

Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) also filed legislation last month that would prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead baggage compartments. The bill was dubbed the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act.

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