BA tries to justify breed ban

BRITISH AIRWAYS has attempted to justify the ban on three bracycephalic (flat faced) breeds of dog from all flights that carry pets under the Pets Passport Scheme. The ban was placed on Bulldogs, Pekingese and Pugs just before Christmas 2002, although no formal statement was made as to this change of policy.

As reported previously, OUR DOGS learned of the breed ban via a Pekingese breeder who wished to fly some dogs to the UK under the PETS scheme. The breeder was informed that BA would no longer carry flat-faced breeds due to "health difficulties" that these breeds faced whilst flying.

British Airways Press Officer Richard Goodfellow confirmed that such a breed-specific ban had been initiated just before Christmas and told OUR DOGS: "British Airways have taken veterinary advice concerning three breeds of flat faced dog – Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekinese and have decided that we will no longer carry these breeds on BA flights, due to the respiratory problems these breeds can face. These problems can be exacerbated by stress and air travel can be stressful to dog, hence our decision."

When asked whether any kind of consultation had taken place with either the Kennel Club or any of the Breed Clubs, Mr Goodfellow added: "We work closely with vets and take their advice. As the carriers operating under the pet passport Scheme, we can decide which breeds of dog we carry on our flights, so, to my knowledge, no further consultation took place other than via our vets."

OUR DOGS compiled a list of questions for British Airways in an attempt to get to the bottom of the ban and submitted these to the company last week. BA’s responses are given verbatim in bold type:

Q: The ban on Boxers, Pekingese and Pugs appears to have been taken quickly and quite arbitrarily, with no prior warning. Was there an incident or incidents relating to any dogs of these breeds suffering stress/breathing difficulties whilst being carried as cargo by BA that prompted this ban? If not, why were these breeds singled out?

A: This ban was not taken lightly and was as a result of growing concerns
regarding the welfare of these particular breeds of flat faced dogs when
being carried in an aircraft. These types of dogs are prone to breathing
difficulties and this condition can sometimes be exaggerated by the stress
of air travel.

Q: You state that BA sought veterinary advice. How many vets were consulted? Was this advice "in-house" or taken from an outside source? Please identify the vet(s) concerned in order that we may contact them direct.

A: We carry a large amount of animals around the world and believe we
have a very good experience of knowing how best to care for each individual animal during the whole air travel process.
We have an excellent working relationship with the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow, which is run by the Port of London Authority and is a world leading centre when looking at the impact of air travel on all types of
animals. We speak to them on a very regular basis and their veterinary
staff are aware of the decision.

Q: All animals travelling under the PETS Scheme need to have a veterinary certificate of health to be fit to travel. Does the BA Breed Ban therefore override this official documentation on the health of the individual animal?

A: Yes this ban does over-rule the normal vets' certificate relating to
fitness to travel as we have real concerns about the welfare of flat faced
dogs when travelling by air.

Q: You stated that BA did not seek advice from any dog bred club relating to the breeds involved, or the Kennel Club. Do you not consider that it would have been prudent to obtain the advice and input of experts in these breeds rather than just seeking veterinary advice?
A: We believe that we have taken the correct decision in relation to the
these breeds' welfare whilst in an aircraft and consulted with experts in
this particular specialist field of veterinary care.

Q: Why was notice of the ban on these breeds not communicated to the Kennel Club or to the specialist dog press, as you must be aware that breeders and exhibitors of these breeds would be wanting to transport same and making plans accordingly.
A: This decision was communicated to our regular customers who use our
dog transportation services and has been communicated to other owners who have contacted us in recent weeks about our cargo services.

Q: Has the ban been agreed with or notified to DEFRA?
A: We believe that DEFRA is aware of the decision but the ban didn't need
to be agreed by a government department.

Q: Have other airlines that carry dogs under the Pet Passport Scheme implemented similar breed bans?
A: Yes, we believe that a number of other airlines have their own rules
regarding the carriage of flat faced dogs. Overall BA has less restrictive
codes of carriage relating to animals than other airlines.

Q: Whilst it is true that BA, as the carrier, is entitled to specify rules relating to the carriage of animals, are you aware that such a ban 'across the board' could be subject to legal challenge, including challenges under Human Rights legislation, as well as under EU law, by obstructing the free passage of goods (animals being classed as goods) across the EU? Would BA be prepared to defend such action in the courts?
A: We believe that our decision is in the best interests of animal
welfare. As the carrier, we reserve the right to amend our terms of
carriage as we see fit, and in this case we believe that our decision is
justified.

Q: Does BA have any intention of implementing similar bans on other breeds of dog, or flat-faced breeds of cat?
A: We constantly review our policies in this area of our cargo operation
and we reserve the right to amend our terms of carriage in light of any
animal welfare issues that may arise in the future.
Feeling that BA had not fully answered the question relating to the source of their veterinary consultation, OUR DOGS then contacted the Corporation of London to enquire whether any members of staff at Heathrow’s Animal Reception Centre had been consulted or involved in the decision making process. Rory Taylor of the Corporation’s Press Office emphatically stated that no staff at the ARC nor within the Corporation were consulted, and the first that they knew of the breed ban was when BA informed them if its implementation.
OUR DOGS contacted Mr Goodfellow at BA’s press office again, pointing out Mr Taylor’s remarks and asked a further question. BA’s response again appears in italic type:

Q: Was the ban prompted by an incident involving any of the breeds banned suffering during any flight, or has this ban been enacted "just in case"? Obviously, if there are no clear grounds for such a ban and these breeds have been unfairly targeted because they "might" suffer from stress or breathing difficulties, then the ban is both unfair and legally questionable.
A: British Airways World Cargo is more than happy with its consultation
processes when coming to this decision which was based on the ground of
animal welfare and as a result of its expertise in recognising the
different affects which air travel has on a wide range of animals.
We wish to make clear that animal welfare was paramount behind this
decision and believe that the ban is fully justified.

OUR DOGS contacted Rod Eddington, Chief Executive Officer of BA. Mr Eddington replied via his PA Theresa Sabin as follows:
“As previously advised by Mr Goodfellow, who I see from recent
correspondence has replied to your questions raised, I can only reiterate
what he has advised you on the subject of our transporting these particular breeds of dogs. May I request if you have any further issues to raise, you
liaise direct with Mr Goodfellow.”

Earlier this week we received confirmation that a Bulldog had died en route to Australia aboard a BA flight in early October 2002. The dog, a pet owned by a family in the north of England who do not wish to be identified was sent as cargo on a BA flight to Sydney. The dog was secured in an approved airline travelling crate and sealed in the plane’s hold. The crate was removed form the hold during the plan’s stopover in Singapore, at which point the dog was seen to be alive and well, but in a state of some excitement.

The crate was then placed in he hold again for the remainder of the onward flight to Sydney. However, upon arrival the dog was found to have died. It is believed that the dog, already not used to such long distance travel had become excited upon arrival at Singapore, thinking that it had reached its destination and was due to be removed form the crate. After being placed back in the hold, the dog, already in a highly excited state may have become further stressed and succumbed to some kind of seizure, most probably a heart attack.
The dog’s owners were, naturally, distraught at their pet’s death, but refused a post mortem, opting instead to have their dog cremated and its ashes buried at their home in the Sydney suburbs. No blame was attached to BA for negligence and the family have declined to launch any action against the airline in this regard.

On Tuesday of this week, OUR DOGS conveyed this information to BA and received the following response via Richard Goodfellow:
‘I have looked at your inquiry this morning and I have found out that there
was unfortunately a death of a pet bulldog on a BA flight to Sydney in
October 2002.

‘We have investigated our processes and procedures surrounding this flight
and are satisfied that things were carried out in the correct manner.
The owner refused to allow a post mortem examination and therefore the
dog's death was put down to natural causes.
‘In the terms and conditions of our cargo carriage BA is not responsible for
the death of animals due to natural causes.
‘As stated many times to you before the welfare of all flat faced dogs is of
paramount concern to us regardless as to who owns them and that is why we
introduced the ban.

‘Contrary to your view the ban was not introduced as a result of this
particular case in October 2002 and was actually being discussed and
reviewed before this regrettable incident in Sydney occurred.’
BA’s stated concern for the welfare of flat faced breeds, whilst laudable, is perhaps somewhat misplaced, especially as it affects dog owners, breeders and exhibitors of all three listed breeds in this country and in many other countries abroad. BA is the only authorised airline carrier under the PETS scheme that flies long haul to Australia and the USA, as well as many European countries, therefore denying owners the chance to take advantage of the scheme. American exhibitors of Bulldogs, Pekinese and Pugs that have qualified their dogs for Crufts 2003 will now not be able to fly their dogs to the UK.

BA’s decision not to consult with the Kennel Club or any breed clubs on this issue has led to yet another situation where a form of Breed Specific legislation has been enacted on the basis of one incident involving one dog, or, as BA themselves have stated – because of "welfare concerns" that an unidentified individual – allegedly a vet – has expressed about bracycephalic breeds.

Top Pekingese breeder Liz Stannard who exhibits under the Shiarita affix robustly condemned the breed ban, saying: "Well, I’m very annoyed because it will inconvenience me. I can understand if BA are reluctant to transport flat faced dogs on the long haul Australian route, but this means that I now can’t import dogs under the PETS scheme form Europe. How is anyone going to get show dogs in now? What about the dogs in the USA that have qualified for Crufts? BA is the only airline approved by DEFRA to fly dogs under the scheme.
"BA has applied a blanket ban and have not sought the advice of anyone concerned with dogs, certainly not the Kennel Club and this is just not on for a big organisation to act in this way.

"I have bought a property in Spain and want to take my dogs there with me for a few months each year and then ring them back to Spain. Obviously, the pet passport scheme is ideal for this, but because of BA’s ban on Pekingese now, I can’t do so. I am looking into the legality of their ban, as I feel certain that it contravenes EU law on the free passage of goods across Europe, as dogs are classed as goods. They are denying me a choice for no apparent reason."

Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club commented: "The Kennel Club learnt of this issue from concerned enquirers and also the editor of OUR DOGS a few weeks ago and we have been monitoring developments with interest ever since until the full facts were made available by yourselves. This issue was also raised on Monday at the Dog Legislation Advisory Group meeting and as a next step the Kennel Club intends to write to British Airways to seek the rationale for their decision as, like OUR DOGS, we would be very interested to know exactly which veterinary advisers had input into BA's decision and we are also aware that there are numerous dog owners who will find this new initiative restrictive to say the least."

OUR DOGS will continue to monitor the effects of the BA breed ban on flat faced breeds and would welcome any comments from owners of the affected breeds.

Please direct your comments to Nick Mays, Chief Reporter at our usual editorial address… or via email to: ChiefReporter@aol.com


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