Aviation

Qantas, Virgin Australia update pet travel policies following dog deaths

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Australia’s leading carriers will introduce further precautions on their pet policies, in association with the RSPCA.

Qantas Freight has temporarily banned the transport of snub-nosed dogs, as the airline begins implementing new policy changes aimed at reducing the risks of carrying boxers, bulldogs and pugs.

It follows the deaths of two snub-nosed dogs on domestic flights in recent weeks: boxer Duke and bulldog Frank. In both cases, reports say, heat was considered a factor, with Duke having spent significant time on the tarmac before his crate was loaded into an aircraft.

“These increasingly popular breeds are at significantly higher risk of health complications due to their short snouts and respiratory systems,” Qantas said in a statement.

“These risks are compounded in warm weather.”

The RSPCA and other animal experts have been involved in finalising additional measures to Qantas’ new policy, which would include a requirement that all snub-nosed dogs be cleared to fly by a registered vet “immediately prior to travel”.

(iStock.com/Sisoje)

Further measures include “strongly” recommending customers use registered animal shipping companies with vets based at major capital city airports. Along with a proposed long-term review of airport equipment to provide further tarmac protection for vulnerable breeds in extreme weather.

Qantas stressed the changes will not apply to other dog breeds, which do not require a veterinarian’s approval to travel.

“We know many owners love to take their pets with them when they travel, so we’re designing a way to help reduce the risks that are inherent with these particular breeds,” Qantas Freight chief customer officer Nick McGlynn said.

“These types of dogs are hugely popular but unfortunately they are high-risk flyers due to their respiratory system and breathing problems. The risk is even higher in hot conditions and this summer we’ve seen a tragic spike in deaths of snub-nose dogs in extreme weather.”

More than 40,000 pets are flown across Qantas’ domestic network every year, the airline says, including some 2,000 snub-nosed dogs.

Furthermore, rival airline Virgin Australia will no longer accept bookings for snub-nosed breeds as of today until further notice.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said it is committed to upholding “the highest standards” when it comes to safely transporting pets, and made the difficult decision to no longer accept bookings for at-risk dog breeds as a result of the high risk associated with transporting them.

“We continually review and enhance our operating procedures and work closely with animal welfare bodies such as the RSPCA to ensure the safety and welfare of animals travelling across our network,” the spokesperson said.

“We have seen a tragic spike in issues across the industry when transporting snub-nosed breeds and this has prompted Virgin Australia to review the transport of these animals.

“While we understand that snub-nosed breeds are a popular choice of pet, they are a high-risk animal to transport due to their known respiratory issues and other health problems that may be compounded inflight.”

“Virgin Australia has made the difficult decision to no longer accept bookings for snub-nosed breeds until further notice.”

The airline said it is currently notifying its guests and clients of the change.

When transporting your pets, the RSPCA recommends ensuring containers comply with current IATA Live Animal Regulations.

To minimise the risk of heat stress,  the animal welfare organisation strongly suggests booking flights that take place when temperatures are cooler, or, alternatively, choosing other modes of transport where direct supervision throughout the transport process is possible.

Featured image: (iStock.com/Chalabala)

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