Shipping pets by air gets more complicated, costly

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 28, 2001|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Dog and cat owners are encountering tighter rules for flying their pets aboard air carriers in the wake of the terror attacks, adding hassles, delays and hundreds of dollars in higher costs.

With an estimated 500,000 pets flying in U.S. skies annually, the new policies - which vary by airline - are causing confusion among pet owners and a boom in business for pet shippers.

"People are really desperate and they're angry," said Millie Woolf, owner of Tampa, Fla.-based Air Animal and spokeswoman for the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International.

Most affected by the new policies are animals that are unaccompanied by a passenger. In the past, airlines typically allowed their owners to book them as cargo. In the wake of the attacks, however, airlines are requiring all cargo - pets included - to be handled by "known shippers" or Federal Aviation Administration-registered "indirect air carriers."

"Before Sept. 11 ... people could walk up and tender a pet, but that is no longer the case," said an American Airlines spokeswoman. "All the airlines should be working on the same [rules] - that all cargo can only be accepted from known shippers."

Those shippers generally require at least a seven-day waiting period before they ship a pet, which allows them to check the background of the owner.

Airlines are referring breeders and pet owners, who used to ship pets themselves, to specialized animal transport companies - overwhelming some with hundreds of calls a day. For consumers, the new restrictions can send costs skyrocketing.

Checking a pet as baggage generally costs about $75, with cargo prices varying. Shipping a pet professionally can cost as little as $250 domestically and $450 internationally, said Shoshana Weissman, general manager of the Kennel Club near Los Angeles International Airport.

But other transporters can charge far more for basic services, and then there can be boarding and surface transportation fees.

Janice Cipparrone, owner of San Francisco-based Pet Express and president of the pet transport association, said shipping a large dog across the country can run as much as $1,200, a stinging price spike for pet owners.

The charges also have come as a blow to those animal breeders not recognized as "known shippers," forcing them to add another intermediary to their business mix.

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