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American Airlines finally lift breed ban


AMERICAN AIRLINES has at last officially announced that its discredited, unpopular ban on certain dog breeds has been lifted.

Despite denials two months ago that an announcement by the Dobermann Pinscher Club of America suggested a lifting of the ban was imminent, AA issued a brief statement last week to indicate the ban will be lifted later this month, now that a new kennel sealing procedure for all dogs carried on AA flights has been adopted.

The AA statement makes no reference to negotiations with the DPCA or the American Kennel Club, simply stating: ‘American Airlines Cargo division announced today it will issue a new kennel-sealing requirement as part of its live animal acceptance policy effective May 17, 2003. The sealing requirement will allow the airline to lift its canine breed restriction policy.

‘Acceptable kennels used to ship dogs will require releasable cable ties attached to each of the four corners of the kennel door. American Airlines will provide the releasable cable ties to the customer - at no cost - and the ties must be attached to the kennel by the shipper.

Acceptable kennels must meet the requirements of the International Air Transport Association Live Animal Regulations and may be purchased from American Airlines.’

Idiocy

However, this display of apparent corporate commonsense and largesse is down to the intervention of dog enthusiasts in the US and around the world, who refused to accept a breed ban initiated as a knee-jerk reaction to one isolated incident involving a so-called ‘pit bull terrier’.

American Airlines announced its new policy on August 7th 2002, stating that the airline would no longer accept the American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terrier, Dobermann Pinschers and Rottweilers.

The ban was implemented on the advice of AA’s insurers after a pit bull terrier escaped from an approved airline travel container in the hold of a 757 on a domestic flight from San Diego to New York’s JFK airport. Flight personnel did not discover that the dog was free until the plane landed, and the pilot summoned the dog’s owner, who was aboard the same flight, to capture the animal. Apparently the dog had caused ‘some damage’ to the hold, although the extent of this was not revealed, but airline staff took photographs of the damage.

Soon after this, the airline consulted insurers about the incident and queried which dogs should be banned to prevent such an incident occurring again – apparently oblivious of the fact that any breed of dog could escape under similar circumstances.

According to the spokesman, the insurers came up with a list of breeds which were considered ‘dangerous’ and the Airline introduced the ban immediately.

However, Jeffrey P. Helsdon, the Legislative Director of the Dobermann Pinscher Club of America broke the news, which comes from the highest sources within American Airlines to OUR DOGS earlier this year.

Mr Helsdon said: “The change in AA policy comes after an initial storm of protest from the pure-bred dog fancy in general, organised in large part through the leadership of the DPCA.

Over the past six months, members of the DPCA Legislative Committee have conducted confidential, high level negotiations directly with AA officers charged with the responsibility for implementing the breed profiling policy. At one point, a DPCA Legislative Committee member held discussions with an AA officer in the first class section of an AA 747 travelling across the Pacific to China.”

As a result of the DPCA’s intensive, high level negotiations, AA has designed, and is about to implement, a crate securing procedure that will be used on all dog crates flying on AA flights, irrespective of breed of dog being shipped, to ensure the safety of passengers and crew flying on AA flights. Releasable cable ties will be used on all crates flown in cargo.

Mr Helsdon added: “The reversal of the breed profiling ban is effective immediately.

“Between May and September, the crate securing procedure will be perfected on dogs flown in crates as cargo only. Dogs flown as additional baggage will be subject to the new crate securing procedure beginning in September, giving the procedure an opportunity to be perfected during the summer months.”

He went on to pay tribute to the efforts of numerous Dobermann fanciers throughout the world who called, wrote, and e-mailed AA, which was flooded with mail in opposition to its breed ban since last July. Mr Helsdon expressed special thanks to DPCA official Judy Smith, who conducted many of the negotiations with AA officials on behalf of the DPCA.

No change

AA spokesperson Tara Baten, responding to OUR DOGS’ enquiries about the lifting of the breed ban, dismissed the announcement saying: “We have not announced any change to our animal acceptance policy. However, we are currently reviewing the policy and will announce any changes accordingly.”

However, when OUR DOGS relayed the detailed comments from Jeffrey Helsdon, Ms Baten conceded that there had, indeed, been discussions on raising the breed ban and referred the matter to Gus Whitcomb, AA’s Head of Corporate Communications. Ms Baten then responded in somewhat more detail, saying: “I shared your note with Gus Whitcomb and he has asked me to respond. I can assure you that we have not made any change to our policy at this time. Unfortunately, the Dobermann Pinscher Club of America did not check with us to confirm that we had officially made a change to our policy or to obtain an official statement regarding the status of the policy. We are reviewing the policy and many discussions are taking place - If you’d like, I’d be happy to e-mail
any announcement we make pertaining to changes to our live animal acceptance policy to you directly."

The American Kennel Club also claimed credit for the lifting of the breed ban, posting a lengthy explanation and resume of the matter on its website last weekend.

"American Airlines first implemented its breed ban in August, 2002, following an incident involving a "pit bull" puppy that escaped its crate and damaged the cargo hold of a plane.

This was clearly a case of crate failure and was unrelated to the breed of the dog involved. The AKC immediately launched a nationwide letter-writing campaign to the airline, calling on fanciers to contact American Airlines and express their opposition. AKC Chairman of the Board Ron Menaker, Vice Chairman David Merriam, and President Al Cheauré personally contacted the carrier and offered the AKC as a resource to establish kennel regulations for safe shipment of all breeds of dogs.

"In addition, AKC worked behind the scenes with representatives from American and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animal Board to focus on strengthening crate requirements to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. AKC federal government relations consultant James Holt negotiated proposed changes to the container regulations, including a strap proposal, with American Airlines last fall, shortly after the breed-specific embargo was put into place, and attended an IATA meeting in October to discuss uniform crate standards.

Interrupted

"The AKC consultant also worked out a strategy with then Director of Live Animal and Dangerous Goods Cargo Operations, Richard Powers, at American, who was very cooperative with AKC in trying to end the breed-specific embargo. It was tentatively agreed that American would adopt the strap proposal as a carrier-specific requirement, and then use that as the basis for dropping the breed-specific embargo. The plan was interrupted, but not derailed, by a major layoff at American in November, 2002.

"Outraged purebred dog owners were quick to respond to AKC's call to action and over the past several months have flooded the airline with letters, faxes and e-mails. Many national breed clubs whose breeds were targeted by the ban organized additional grassroots efforts.

All of these communications no doubt helped convince American Airlines to resolve this issue, thereby improving travel conditions for countless responsible dog owners and their well-mannered dogs."

Whoever claims credit for the finish of the breed ban, the fact remains – a large, powerful corporation has caved into pressure by dog owners and has come to realise that their opinions are not to be ridden roughshod over. AA’s climbdown will be seen as a victory for all campaigners against Breed Specific Legislation of any kind around the world.