BREAKING NEWS: Dept. of Transportation moves to end breed discrimination on airlines

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on January 22, 2020 with 0 Comments

The Department of Transportation today announced its plan to issue new regulations that would prohibit airlines from banning certain breeds of service dogs. This represents a much-needed move toward ending discriminatory policies by individual airlines that cause unnecessary and cruel hardships for customers with disabilities and their animals.

The proposal follows a summertime announcement by Delta Airlines that it would no longer allow pit-bull-type dogs on its airplanes, even if they are certified service dogs. That decision failed to acknowledge what scientists and animal experts have agreed upon for years—that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that a dog poses a direct threat because of his or her breed.

With its decision, Delta placed an extreme and unnecessary hardship on its own customers, asking them to choose between air travel and essential service animals. It also ignored guidance from the DOT in August 2019 that instructed airlines not to prohibit service dogs on flights based on their breed or physical appearance alone.

The DOT confirmed that guidance in its announcement today and stated that it is not aware of nor has been presented with evidence supporting the assertion that an animal poses a direct threat simply because of its breed.

There is, in fact, absolutely no evidence that pit-bull-type dogs have more aggressive tendencies than other breeds. On the other hand, such dogs are increasingly serving as seeing eye and hearing dogs, as physical support dogs for balance and mobility, as medical alert dogs responding to various health issues such as low blood sugar, oncoming seizures or low oxygen levels, and as support animals for individuals with psychological conditions such as PTSD.

What adds to the confusion is that there isn’t a specific breed called a “pit bull.” Instead the term is used loosely to refer to any medium-sized and short-haired dog with a large head. As a result, a large number of breeds are clubbed together under this moniker, including the Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier and endless variations of mixed breeds.

Experts like the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Bar Association, American Kennel Club, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, National Animal Control Association and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association oppose any and all policies that discriminate against dogs whose physical characteristics are lumped into a breed. As awareness grows, dozens of municipalities have also done away with breed specific legislation in the last couple years. Just this month, Washington became the 21st state to prohibit its localities from passing such legislation.

There are some serious practical problems with such policies, too. Even professionals who work in the animal industry, including veterinarians, animal control officers and shelter employees, are unable to accurately identify breed based solely on the physical traits of the dog. An airline employee would find it impossible to decide which dog should be banned on the basis of his or her breed, leading to highly discretionary and inconsistent decisions. Airline personnel already have the discretion to prohibit an individual animal from flying if they are displaying unsafe behavior, and instead of creating breed discriminatory policies, airlines should train staff to look for signs of behavioral stress in dogs.

We applaud this proposed amendment that would bring airlines in line with the latest science while ensuring that individuals with disabilities and their service animals are adequately protected from frivolous discriminatory policies. The DOT also announced today its intent to prohibit exotic species, including capuchin monkeys and other primates, as service animals—concerns we have flagged in the past because of the health, safety and welfare risks involved. Please submit your comments supporting this rulemaking, and help us make air travel a safe, comfortable and stress-free experience for all individuals, including those with disabilities, and the animals who play such an important role in their lives.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

As racehorse death toll continues to climb, Congress moves to salvage the ‘sport of kings’

By on January 22, 2020 with 0 Comments
As racehorse death toll continues to climb, Congress moves to salvage the ‘sport of kings’

Horses dying at the racetracks with alarming frequency is a sadly familiar scenario of late, but even by that measure the body count over the past week is nothing short of astonishing. Since Friday alone, three horses have been euthanized at Santa Anita Park in . . . 

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Twenty-five years after their return, Yellowstone wolves face new challenges

By on January 21, 2020 with 0 Comments
Twenty-five years after their return, Yellowstone wolves face new challenges

It is exactly 25 years this month since 14 wolves from Canada were brought to Yellowstone National Park, an area that had not seen a single wolf in 70 years because of trophy hunting and trapping. Almost immediately, the animals began reshaping the landscape, regenerating . . . 

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New building makes room for more chimpanzees to retire at Project Chimps

By on January 17, 2020 with 0 Comments
New building makes room for more chimpanzees to retire at Project Chimps

I arrived at Project Chimps yesterday just as dinner was being served to its residents: 79 retired research chimpanzees who now call this verdant, 236-acre sanctuary nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia their home. The building we were in is a brand-new, state-of-the-art . . . 

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HSI responders saving koalas, kangaroos and other animals in wildfire-ravaged Australia

By on January 16, 2020 with 0 Comments
HSI responders saving koalas, kangaroos and other animals in wildfire-ravaged Australia

The Humane Society International rescue team’s reports from Australia’s Kangaroo Island describe an “apocalyptic” scene. Once a critical wildlife habitat celebrated the world over for its pristine wilderness, Kangaroo Island has been ravaged by the recent bushfires, with at least 600 square miles of land . . . 

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Breaking news: Court rules California’s foie gras ban will stand

By on January 15, 2020 with 2 Comments
Breaking news: Court rules California’s foie gras ban will stand

A federal judge has just shut down the latest challenge to California’s foie gras ban, in an important ruling that reaffirms the right of states to enact legislation that protects animals in agriculture. Today’s district court ruling is the latest in a long-running saga that . . . 

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States, localities step up to help pets left outside in the cold

By on January 14, 2020 with 5 Comments
States, localities step up to help pets left outside in the cold

Each year, as winter settles in and temperatures drop dangerously low in parts of the country, we hear heartbreaking reports about companion animals left in the cold. Last month, in Clayton, Wisconsin, an extremely thin dog froze to death after being chained and left outside . . . 

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Norwegian company fires U.S. executive amidst rising public sentiment against trophy hunting

By on January 13, 2020 with 8 Comments
Norwegian company fires U.S. executive amidst rising public sentiment against trophy hunting

Public disapproval of trophy hunting and the havoc trophy hunters wreak on the world’s endangered and threatened wildlife is on the rise, both here in the United States and around the globe. We recently saw a striking example of this in play when a Norwegian . . . 

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Breaking news: Pennsylvania charges two teens who abused a dying deer with animal cruelty under Libre’s Law

By on January 10, 2020 with 86 Comments
Breaking news: Pennsylvania charges two teens who abused a dying deer with animal cruelty under Libre’s Law

In November, Americans were stunned by a viral video that showed two teenagers kicking and stomping an injured white tail deer they had just shot. In the 30-second clip, Alex Smith, 18, and his companion could be seen laughing and ripping off one of the . . . 

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Nebraska once again opens its fragile mountain lion population to trophy hunters

By on January 10, 2020 with 40 Comments
Nebraska once again opens its fragile mountain lion population to trophy hunters

Last week, a trophy hunter killed a mountain lion in Nebraska and posted a photo of himself on social media with the dead animal, a one-and-a-half-year-old male. While most Americans would find this unnecessary killing of a majestic native carnivore horrifying by itself, the facts . . . 

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HSUS and HSI training helps law enforcement officers spot, report animal cruelty

By on January 9, 2020 with 1 Comment
HSUS and HSI training helps law enforcement officers spot, report animal cruelty

Last year, Officer Stevie Hargenrater, a humane officer in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, was called to a property where she found a dead Rottweiler and a small sheltie mix in terrible condition. The officer had recently participated in the Humane Society of the United States’ training . . . 

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HSI will deploy this week to help animals affected by Australian wildfires

By on January 7, 2020 with 22 Comments
HSI will deploy this week to help animals affected by Australian wildfires

Wildfires ravaging the Australian continent have killed 25 people and are taking an unprecedented toll on the country’s rich wildlife and other animals. We have all seen these heart-wrenching images in the media: dead koalas scattered across scorched landscapes; frightened cows standing under orange-red skies . . . 

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