Pets

Viral video shows dog owner ignoring her dog’s poop at Denver Airport

Reno-Tahoe International Airport pet relief area

RNO airport pet relief area

Last week, my At the Airport column on USA TODAY discussed the challenge airports are having with all the animals – mainly dogs – passengers are bringing into the terminals. Some dogs are well-behaved; others not.

“We find them making messes on the airport carpet, interfering with the airport’s working dogs and, on occasion, biting other dogs or passengers,” said Kama Simonds, spokeswoman for Oregon’s Portland International Airport.

This week, PDX issued revised rules for animals in the airport  which include potential fines up for up to $250 for infractions such as letting your dog do its business on the floor and not cleaning it up.

Looks like Denver International Airport will have to consider adopting similar rules. This video of a woman chatting on the phone instead of cleaning up after her dog has gone viral, with folks on the Internet working together to ID her and shame her.

By the way, Denver International Airport has official dog relief areas in each concourse.

Airports tightening the leash on animals in terminals

Thinking of taking dog your pet or emotional support animal with you on your next flight? Be sure to check the airline -and the airport – rule books on that. As I describe in my ‘At the Airport’ column this month for USA TODAY, airports are following the lead of airlines and making new and more restricted rules for animals in the terminals.  Below is a slightly edited version of that column.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport pet relief area

There were plenty of “Aw, that’s so cute” social media posts last month when Eleanor Rigby, one of two service dog vest-wearing golden retrievers accompanying a passenger to Philadelphia on American Airlines, went into labor and gave birth to eight puppies in a gate area at Tampa International Airport.

(Courtesy TPA Airport)

No one was charmed, however, by the report a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport posted last February about a woman who replied “They have people for that” when asked if she planned to clean up after her dog did its ‘business’ on the airport floor.

Yet both stories are examples of a wide range of animal-related incidents that are forcing airports to expend extra resources and causing them to rethink policies governing animals in the terminals.

In the Tampa airport puppy case, cute became controversy when animal rights advocates and people with certified service animals began questioning if the vested dogs were legitimate service animals and asking why a very pregnant dog – be it a certified service animal, emotional support animal or pet – had been allowed to fly so close to its due date.

TPA officials point out that airports have no say over the animals that airlines allow on board.

“We were just there to help with the situation and are happy the puppies were delivered safely,” said TPA spokeswoman Emily Nipps.

Tampa International Airport hasn’t yet tallied up its exact costs for having paramedics, operations, communications and maintenance staff spend several hours attending to Eleanor Rigby and her new puppies during the airport delivery, “But having paramedics assisting a dog in labor could have potentially impacted a medical emergency on another side of the airport,” said Nipps.

Cleaning up: the rules and the messes 

As had been widely reported, airlines have seen a sharp rise in the number of animals traveling on planes. Some are ticketed pets, but many are pets that have been flying for free thanks to loopholes in rules governing the transport of emotional or psychiatric support animals.

American Airlines reported a 40% increase in the number of service and emotional support animals on flights between 2016 and 2017. United Airlines cited a 75% increase year over year.

Like airlines, airports have had to make accommodations for all the extra animals and, like airlines, airports have been logging increased instances of pets and emotional support animals that are untrained, unruly and dangerous to others in the terminals.

“We find them making messes on the airport carpet, interfering with the airport’s working dogs and, on occasion, biting other dogs or passengers,” said Kama Simonds, spokeswoman for Portland International Airport.

Last December, a 5-year old girl ended up in the hospital after being bit in the face by an uncrated dog waiting for a flight with its owner at Portland International Airport. And a local TV station filming for a report on dog issues at PDX caught a schnauzer in the act of peeing on the airport’s brand new $13 million carpet.

Many airports hope revised policies for flying with emotional support animals recently rolled out by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United and others will cut down on the number of animals in airport terminals.

“The way we see it, if the airlines put more specific and stricter guidelines in place to manage the issue, it will take care of the problem in the airport too,” said TPA’s Emily Nipps, “So we support the airlines in tightening up the policies.”

For its part, Airports Council International-North America, the membership organization which represents and advises most U.S. airports, is urging the Department of Transportation to clarify its rules.

Currently, there’s confusion for both passengers and airports because airlines are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act, which recognizes emotional support animals, while airports are covered by a different act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not recognize emotional support animals.

“We want DOT to clearly articulate that airports are within their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to require anyone bringing an emotional support animal through an airport terminal to house those animals in carriers, so they don’t interfere with other passengers, employees, staff or other animals including service animals and TSA and police canine units,” said Thomas Devine, ACI-NA’s general counsel.

DOT is currently taking comments through July 9 on proposed rulemaking related to traveling by air with service animals and ACI-NA will join the public and other industry groups in filing comments.

But at least one airport is not waiting for DOT to get around to making its final ruling.

After consulting with other airports, including San Francisco International, Detroit Metropolitan and Fairbanks International Airport, Portland International Airport plans to issue new rules aimed at clearly defining the different categories of traveling animals—pets, emotional support animals and service animals—and clarifying how the airport expects travelers to care for these animals while in the terminal.

“We see many people bring their pets when meeting and greeting people in the terminal. That’s a no-no,” said PDX spokesperson Kama Simonds, “Pets should not be at the airport unless they are traveling or being shipped.”

The new PDX rules will remind travelers that, like pets, the airport requires emotional support animals heading for airplanes to be in carriers while in the terminal. If too large for a carrier, those emotional support animals must be kept on short leashes.

And if a traveler’s animal urinates or defecates on the floor at PDX, the new rules will require an owner to remain at the site until someone from the janitorial staff arrives.

During July, airport operations staff at PDX will start spreading the word about the new rules. Come August, though, warnings and citations for bad dogs could be issued, with possible fines of up to $250.

A tighter leash on emotional support animals flying on American Airlines

American Airlines becomes the latest U.S. carrier to issue renewed and tighter rules for taking emotional support and service animals on board it airplanes.

The full rules, which go into effect July 1, 2018,  are listed here, but some of the  highlights include:

To fly with an emotional/psychiatric service animal, customers must contact American’s Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before a flight and provide documentation.

American says validation of that documentation will include having the airline contact your mental health professional.

Certain types of animals from are now forbidden from flying as emotional/psychiatric support or service animals, including insects, amphibians, reptiles, hedgehogs, goats, ferrets, snakes, spiders, waterfowl, birds of prey, animals with tusks, horns or hooves (except specially trained horses) and animals that have an odor.

To fly for free, emotional/psychiatric support and fully-trained service animals must meet the tightened requirements, must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (and if flying in your lap, be smaller than a 2-year old child).

And service or emotional/psychiatric support animals will not be allowed to stick out into or block aisles; occupy a seat or eat from tray tables.

 

No new pets in cargo on United – for now

United Airlines is temporarily suspending its program for flying pets as cargo on airplanes.

The announcement came Tuesday after much-publicized incidents involving mix-ups involving pets being transported as cargo and another in which a dog died after a flight attendant insisted its owner place the in-cabin pet carrier in an overhead bin.

“We are conducting a thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers and their pets,” United said in a statement, “To achieve this outcome, we will partner with independent experts in pet safety, comfort and travel.”

United said it will honor reservations for transporting pets as cargo that were already in place as of March 20. But the program is not accepting new reservations until at least May 1, when United says its review process should be completed.

In its statement, United said that the PetSafe suspension would not affect pets traveling with passengers in the aircraft’s cabin.

“We are also reviewing this service and have already announced that beginning in April we will issue bright colored bag tags to help better identify pets who are traveling in-cabin,” United said.

Dog dies after United tells flyer to put carrier in overhead bin

[UPDATED statements from United at bottom of story]

United Airlines has confirmed the death of a dog on United flight #1284 Monday night from Houston to New York. The dog’s owner was instructed by a flight attendant to place the pet carrier in an overhead bin.

“Tonight I was on a plane where I witnessed a @united flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog carrier (with dog) in the overhead compartment. The passenger adamantly refused but the flight attendant went on with the instruction,” tweeted Maggie Gremminger, a passenger who says she seated nearby the dog owner.

Passengers interviewed by The Points Guy heard barking from inside the bin during part of the flight. “By the end of the trip, horrified passengers found the dog had died in-flight,” The Points Guy reported.

“Immediately after the flight landed, myself and another witness stayed to speak with various United employees,” Gremminger told the One Mile at a Time website, “The flight attendant denied knowing it was a dog, but the man seated next to me said he heard the flight attendant respond to the passenger, ‘You need to put your dog up here.’

United Airlines’ statement on the incident expresses condolence to the dog’s owners and assumes full responsibility for the incident which, the carrier says, is being thoroughly investigated.

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.” 

For now, United says it has refunded the family’s tickets and the $125 in-cabin pet charge and has offered to fund a necropsy (an animal autopsy) for the dog.

“Incidents like this one are inexcusable, and every member of the flying public should be outraged at United’s callous disregard for the safety of this family’s beloved pet,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, “United was right to quickly apologize and take responsibility for this shocking event, but more needs to be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Placing an animal in an overhead bin – even in an approved pet-carrier – is not part of United Airlines’ (or any airline’s) in-cabin pet policy.

United’s policy states that, “A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”

Passengers are also required to make advance reservations when taking a pet in the cabin. United places a limit of four pets in the economy cabin of any flight and two pets in the premium cabins of select aircraft.

U.S. carriers are required by law to report the incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

For 2017, 24 incidents were reported by carriers. 18 of those incidents were on United airlines and involved injuries or deaths of animals that had traveled as cargo.

Of the 18 incidents, United reported that several animals injured themselves clawing at the interiors of their shipping containers and that medical exams determined several others died during the journey due to natural causes. An Abyssinian dog named Riko escaped from a shipping container and was hit by a vehicle and Lulu, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, died from heat stroke on a flight to San Francisco although the incident reports notes that two other animals on that flight arrived healthy.

And then there is the case of Simon the 3-foot long prize rabbit that died either during – or after – a United flight from London to Chicago.  

Update 3/14/18: United has issued an updated statement on the dog-in-the-overhead bin incident.

We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin. As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.

 To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin.