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PALM LATITUDES

The Fuzziness Factor

August 30, 1992|Kathleen Moloney

Nick and Nora may have thought nothing of carting Asta around the world, but these days, shipping pets is not just expensive, it's dangerous. At least one or two pets die at California airports each year. In 1990, 24 puppies bound for San Diego pet shops were found dead inside the cargo hold of a United Airlines jet. Another incident involved a Lhasa apso pup en route from Omaha found DOA in his cage at Ontario Airport.

But the government is cracking down on airline animal abuse. In May, for example, United Airlines was fined $48,000 by the federal government for various violations of animal safety codes. That brought the total fines against air carriers this year to $52,000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, for incidents ranging from accepting an animal in too small a crate to stacking them in dangerous areas.

"We're finally getting to the point that it costs more than $5 for neglecting or killing an animal," says Jeanne Lorang, the USDA animal-care inspector for Southern California. "I think airline personnel care about transporting pets safely. But sometimes people need more education."

Recent changes in federal regulations for airlines could make travel more difficult for four-legged passengers. In the past, animals were grounded once the outdoor temperature hit 85 degrees unless the air carrier provided a cooler environment. Last summer the rules changed; now airlines are restricted from transporting an animal only if it seems distressed.

Lorang advises those transporting animals to take direct flights and avoid traveling during heat waves. "In August and September, forget Burbank and fly from LAX; the temperature can differ by 25 degrees," she says. Airlines are not the only ones mishandling animals, she adds. "The other day I came upon a man cursing the ticket agent for not accepting his dog. I looked inside the cage and saw the poor thing could barely move. People really need to use common sense."

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