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Guide dogs allowed to fly cabin class

GUIDE DOGS will be allowed to accompany their owners in aircraft cabins on direct flights into Britain under new rules approved by the Government.

Ben Bradshaw, the new Animal Health Minister, is to order the move before the summer after pressure from blind and deaf people, allegedly including David Blunkett, the Home Secretary.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, however, has not yet accepted the plan. It believes that the ideal maximum journey time for a dog in a cabin is five hours, because the dog will need to urinate or defecate.

Seasoned travellers with guide dogs dismiss these concerns, however. Some airlines provide an absorbent mat for dogs to allow it to urinate. More commonly, owners cut back a dog’s food and water before a flight, and offer milk bones or ice chips to prevent dehydration during a flight.

Jill Allen-King, chairman of the European Blind Union Commission on Mobility and Guide Dogs, was pleased by the changes. "Thank goodness the Government has come to its senses," she said.

The exemption is unlikely to apply to long-haul flights to Australia and New Zealand, which usually involve a stop-over. Journeys will be allowed only for dogs travelling to and from rabies-free countries.

Under current rules, all dogs must be kept in sealed crates in the hold on flights into Britain. Many airlines already allow dogs to fly in the cabin on outward flights.