Hong Kong – Flat-faced canines can no longer fly Cathay Pacific. And their feline friends need to make other travel plans, too.
As of Monday, the airline has banned the so-called brachycephalic breeds due to concerns that certain types of short-nosed animals have an increased risk of breathing problems and overheating due to the stress of flying.
According to the airline’s travel advisory, the ban comes out of concern for the “negative health impact to the animal” caused by air transportation.
Banned are popular breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers, as well Himalayan, Persian and exotic short-hair cats.
Cathay Pacific is the latest airline to ban snub-nosed dogs, following similar moves by Singapore Airlines and several American carriers.
The move comes a year after the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) released figures detailing the number of in-flight canine deaths between May 2005 and May 2010. Their results, compiled from monthly reports by U.S. airlines, showed that short-faced dog breeds such as pugs and bulldogs represented about half of in-flight dog deaths.
English bulldogs accounted for 25 of the 108 deaths of known breeds – far more than any other pedigree.
In a statement, the DOT advised owners of short-faced breeds to review the data before shipping them as cargo, and urged owners to consult veterinarians before flying their pets.
Brachyphalic dogs are at a higher risk of death because their breathing is more restricted than that of a dog with a longer muzzle. This restricted breathing makes it harder for a short-faced dog to cool itself down by panting.
American Airlines imposed a complete ban on the travel of snub-nosed cats and dogs in its cargo holds or as checked luggage, limiting their travel to in-cabin only. The airline also established a ban on eight breeds – including boxers, pugs and Boston terriers –between the summer dates of June 30 and September 1.
Delta Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines offer similar temperature-contingent restrictions for the cargo and checked-baggage travel of pets.
Singapore airlines has issued a complete ban on snub-nosed dogs as well as their cross breeds.
Thomas Lau, Cathay Pacific’s assistant manager of public affairs, said that the move was necessary.
“The ban is to bring Cathay Pacific into line with industry practice because it has been found that there is quite a bit of danger,” Lau said.
Lau said that aside from media inquiries, to his knowledge Cathay Pacific has not received any passenger complaints regarding the ban so far.
Whilst Cathay Pacific’s measures appear to have the animals’ best interests at heart, Hong Kong’s Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) believes that the ban is an over-reaction.
“We understand that they must have some statistics that certain breeds of dogs are more problematic in the cargo cabin, but there are cases when air travel is unavoidable, especially when owners need to emigrate,” said Rebecca Ngan, PR and communications manager of SPCA Hong Kong.
“If owners cannot send them in the cabin they may have to abandon them or put them to sleep.”
As it stands, dogs already need a veterinarian-issued health certificate before they can board a flight from Hong Kong, with countries differing on travel requirements worldwide.
“A complete ban is quite difficult as it limits the routes where snub-nosed animals can travel,” said Stacy Tucker, director and owner of Ferndale Kennels & Cattery, a Hong Kong pet shipping company.
Tucker echoed the SPCA’s concern that the new travel ban would increase the number of dogs being euthanized or abandoned.
Dragonair and British Airways are among the airlines still allowing pets to be carried as cargo, but it seems that the days of flying pugs are over.