from an expert in the field:
from an expert in the field:
THERE ARE SEVERAL
reasons airlines should
not allow pets within the
airplane cabin. Research
indicates that about 10
percent of people have allergies to animals.
Some allergy sufferers have severe reactions,
particularly with asthmatic attacks. Often passengers with animal-induced asthma don’t
anticipate an animal on a plane and may have
packed their medications in their checked luggage rather than having them on hand.
There have been cases of severe asthmatic
attacks occurring in such situations. Likewise,
flight attendants with animal allergies often
don’t know when they might be exposed to
pets on planes and could become incapacitated
in such situations, making it dangerous to all
the passengers on the plane.
It has been argued that seating passengers
with allergies away from those with pets is a
viable solution, but this is not necessarily true.
There is evidence that the air circulation in an
airplane would allow cat dander to be spread
throughout the entire ventilation system.
Putting a buffer zone between allergic passen-
gers and cats on the plane is likely to be ineffec-
tive and not easily achievable on most flights.
Dogs generally tend to be less allergenic
than cats, but this does not mean they could
not cause problems. Dogs are bigger animals
and are likely to shed more dander and saliva
proteins than cats, which could potentially trig-
ger an allergic reaction. Although there may be
legitimate reasons for a dog to accompany its
owner in flight, such as a guide dog for some-
one who is visually impaired, one has to assume
that dogs in airplane cabins could cause prob-
lems in people who are allergic to them.
Pet allergies and asthma aside, there is also
the issue of hygiene. Although pets are sup-
posed to be kept in cages on the plane, the
owners often take them out and risk exposing
other passengers to bacterial infection from the
animal’s fecal matter and, possibly, parasites.
Although there have been some unfortunate incidents where pets have not survived a
trip in the airplane cargo hold, these numbers
are rather small. If people are really concerned
about their pet, they should seek out adequate
care alternatives so it can stay behind while
I think the health of humans must take priority over the health of pets. C
PETS FLYING ON airplanes can be a tricky and
touchy topic, especially
when it comes to passengers who are allergic to
certain types of animals.
However, the solution to alleviating this problem is not banning pets from passenger cabins
on airplanes. While the safety of passengers is
paramount in any situation, pets are not safe
traveling in the cargo holds of planes, and pet
owners deserve as many options as possible.
Cargo holds are dark, noisy, hot or cold,
poorly pressurized spaces where pets receive no
comfort or supervision during flight. These
stresses, added to the risk of mishandling by
overburdened airline employees, can quickly
push a pet to dangerous levels of stress. A quick
review of incidents detailed by the United States
Department of Transportation shows that
nearly every week pets are lost, injured or killed
in transit and that the vast majority of these pets
are in cargo holds.
Restricting pets to cargo holds places an
unnecessary burden on families whose pets are
very old, very young, ill or cannot be trans-
ported in cargo due to airline policy. Several
short-muzzled breeds of dogs and cats (pugs,
Persian cats and bulldogs, to name a few) are
already banned on some airlines, because the
airline cannot ensure the animal will survive the
trip. For families with special-needs pets, a ban
on cabin travel is a ban on air travel altogether.
Of course, alternatives exist, such as driving
on a family vacation, taking a train on routes
that allow pets on board or leaving the pets with
a reliable sitter. But what options remain for
permanent, long-distance relocations? While
some families have the means to opt for driving
to their destination, military families being sta-
tioned overseas will be faced with the agonizing
mandate to leave a family member behind.
People with allergies can take proactive
steps to protect their health while flying. Airlines
will share whether pets are scheduled to be in
the cabin of a particular plane that day, and pas-
sengers who are at risk can request a courtesy
rebooking, or to be seated far away from any
pets in the plane cabin on their flight. Pets, on
the other hand, have no means to defend their
own health. This obligation lies with their own-
ers and with the community, so it is necessary to
find compromises that protect everyone.
Airline crews have a long record of accom-
modating both groups and delivering great ser-
vice to all passengers. The best path forward is to
continue to allow properly secured pets in carri-
ers to fly in the passenger cabins of planes. C
Opinions expressed are those of
the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no
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Donald F. Stark is a clinical associate professor in the Division of
Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of
KC Theisen is the director of pet-care issues for the Companion Animals Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States.