Dear Island Pet Movers’ family and ALL pet lovers,
This week we have heard a lot of news with two incidents involving United Airlines and pet travel. As a lifelong pet lover and owner, I can understand the outrage and questions surrounding these mishaps. Many of you have reached out to me for my opinion on these tragedies. It has taken some time to get my thoughts together but it is important for us all to understand the realities of the situation.
I started Island Pet Movers in December of 2009. Since that time, my staff and I have worked together to reunite families all over the world. This has not always been easy. I have worked 70-80 hour weeks, have taken middle of the night phone calls to reschedule flights due to storms or cancellations, and worked through the challenges of angry clients when things have gone wrong. Despite all that, nothing compares to the joy and happy tears of families welcoming their beloved pets home. That is why I do it. I understand that a pet is truly a part of the family. And it is that very truth that is at risk today. The media storm that has resulted from the United Airlines incidents has possibly threatened the fact that thousands of pet owners may no longer have access or an affordable way for relocation with their pets.
Although it may seem that “making the airline pay” is providing justice for our pets, this is not necessarily the case. I am in no way saying they had no fault in these incidents, there is always more to the story than the media reports. In these two cases errors were made in the process of getting the pets boarded. One by an employee of an outside contracted boarding facility who placed 2 dogs in the wrong crate, and one by a flight attendant who may or may not have been clear there was a live animal in the bag.
The sudden rush to blame the airline by the public and threats to boycott United Airlines have put all pet owners who travel or relocation at risk. If United were to significantly change their policies related to pet travel, particularly those of the brachycephalic aka snub nosed breed, many more families will have to leave behind to their pets when relocating.
Though there are other airlines that ship pet, United stands above the others for a few reasons. First, they ship more pets than any other US airline. They are also currently the only US airline that allows brachycephalic pets t ship world-wide. I will provide a comprehensive list of these breeds at the end of this letter but some of the more popular are Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls and Shih Tzu. The other airlines stopped the practice due to higher risks in transporting these breeds. However, if done correctly, they can be shipped safely and United has acknowledged that. Even with the higher number of pets transported, the incident of death is less than 2%. And it is important to note that the actual cause of the death is not included in the reports. Some of these deaths could have been due to pre-existing health conditions. These deaths could also be the result of owners not following protocols. We have witnessed first hand dogs in crates that are too small for their size, who fight with the airline staff when asked to go to a larger crate size, and pets listed on health certificates as a breed other than their true breed to skirt the regulations. It is unfortunate that when tragedy results, it is credited only to the airline and not the human who was also at fault.
As the public outcry from these incidents this past week has hit a fever pitch, there has been talk that United may be making significant policy changes to their acceptance of various breeds. This would be devastating for so many families, particularly military families. I grew up in a military family and with each transfer, we moved together. Those with two legs and those with four. If United changed their policy it will result in many families having to say goodbye to their beloved pets when they are required to move. For those that do decide to go the extra mile to bring them with them, there will be a lot of extra time and expense. Examples of this include having to fly them through other countries and sometimes doubling and tripling the amount of time it will take to get them to their destination. Joe, a client of mine who is in the military would like to bring his English Bulldogs when he is transferred to Guam. If the dogs could fly directly in to Guam, it would be one flight from LAX and after clearing customs could be done in less than 24 hours. However, due to current restrictions, the dogs must fly from LAX to Honolulu, spend one night there, buy a ticket and clear custom requirements in Korea, spend one night in Korea, and a third ticket from Korea to Guam. They will have three days of travel across three different countries/territories. The cost of this is upward of $8k. All to keep a family together. The policy change while many thinks helps the pets, actually makes a move much more stressful on the pet, not to mention may possibly be out of the pet owner’s financial possibility.
If we would give a little bit of understanding to the airlines and acknowledge that there is always more to the story, they may be more inclined to allow these flights to happen directly. Humans make mistakes – but the rest of the world’s pet owners should not suffer from knee jerk reactions of those errors. Allow these mistakes to make us aware of possibilities of error and mitigate them as often as possible. When we use a mistake to make positive changes from lessons learned future pet owners are in a much better scenario.
My clients and employees know that this business is my passion and my life, I know we can continue to safely move pets with the airlines if we all take some precautions. We move many bulldogs a year, English, French – check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for pictures, and it can be safely done, but requires diligence and some help from pet owners as well as the airline.
If you are an owner of one of the following breeds I urge you to reach out to United with your support as I am sure that talks are currently circling to ban these breeds for travel as well. They have already been banned on Alaska, American, Delta, Air Canada, Air New Zealand to name a few (there are more but these are the airlines we use the most)
• Affenpinscher – British Shorthair
• Bulldogs all types – Burmese
• Boston Terrier – Exotic Shorthair
• Boxer – Himalayan
• Brussels Griffon – Persian
• Chow Chow
• English Toy Spaniel
- Mastiffs all breeds
- • Japanese Chin
• Lhasa Apso
• Pug (all breeds)
• Shih Tzu
• Teddy Bear Dog
• Tibetan Spaniel
Some people will say – well maybe these breeds should be banned for the safety of the pets, and my disagreement is that with proper handling and extra mitigation, these breeds can be safely shipped as evidenced in our last 9 years of pet shipping.
Here are a few of our tips for a safer relocation for your pet:
• Be honest with your vet, airline, and shipper if using one, if your pet has any ailments or separation issues, do not keep them quiet for fear of your pet not being able to fly. Rather confront the issue and let’s work on a plan to help fix the issue or health concern.
• Use proper crate size. If your flight will not accommodate the crate needed, understand you may have to go to a different airport. It is not safe to try to fit a dog in a smaller crate to accommodate the aircraft.
• Ensure your crate has adequate space and ventilation. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a custom wooden crate with hardly enough holes for ventilation. These crates can act as a sauna, take a big dog and heavy panting with moderate temperatures and the crate heats up. Add a second wire mesh panel to the rear of the crate and plenty of ventilation holes on each side of the crate. There is a minimum standard percentage of holes required, and I have seen many times these standards not being met.
• Acclimate your pet to their carrier – if your pet is not already crate trained, start right away if you have a move coming your way – I tell our clients starting from today, the only place your pet is fed, is in their crate.
• Be honest when booking your flights, if you know you have a snub nose or restricted breed pet that needs extra attention or special crates, do not make up a breed type to avoid this.
• Book the most direct flight available even if it may cost a bit more. Less stress for everyone when there are fewer flights. Sometimes this may require an overnight stay along the way, this is suggested vs a flight with 3 or more connections.
• Use a pet shipper who has the vast experience in shipping pets – the extra cost is worth the headache of worrying about ensuring you’ve covered all of your bases. Professional shippers have seen and heard almost every pet relocation scenario, we are happy to help!
I did not put this together to try to eliminate or reduce the responsibility of any airline in their proper handling of pets, but more to share some insight on what can happen when the general public is not fully aware of the entire situation, and they start making unnecessary demands that will only further add to stress of pets and families.
Pet shipping is very safe, and thousands of our clients will agree. But just as car accidents can happen, vet accidents can happen, travel with an airline can also have accidents and its how the airline handles these incidents that makes the difference. United Cargo does a phenomenal job for many of our clients each day – and we appreciate all that they have done to help keep families together when many other airlines refused to believe in their product and embargoed so many pets.
If you’d like to share your support with United Airlines, and ask them to please reconsider any possible breed embargoes, please reach out to local news stations, and United Facebook pages, and offer the support -this is much needed right now more than ever to save a program that we know hands down really truly is one of the best.
~Kari Mendoza – Owner, Island Pet Movers, Paws Up Pet Transport.