The air cargo subsidiary of Australia’s flag carrier, Qantas Freight, has temporarily suspended new bookings for dogs with snub noses, to help reduce risks in transporting the breeds.
The suspension is due to the airline’s understanding that breeds such as boxers, bull dogs and pugs have a much higher chance of developing health complications at altitude than other dogs, due to their snout shape and respiratory systems.
These risks are compounded in warm weather.
The airline said it is working with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other experts to finalise the additional measures, which include:
- Requiring all snub-nosed dogs to be cleared to fly by a registered vet immediately prior to travel;
- Strongly recommending customers to use registered animal shipping companies, who have vets based at major capital city airports;
- A longer-term review of airport equipment to provide further tarmac protection for vulnerable breeds in extreme weather; and
- Reinforcing existing procedures designed to minimise the time animals are required to spend on the tarmac prior to being loaded.
This is expected to take approximately two weeks.
In the meantime, the airline has put the temporary ban in place.
The temporary suspension does not impact existing bookings, to avoid inconveniencing owners and their dogs who have already started their travel. Qantas Freight’s chief customer officer Nick McGlynn said that the airline wanted to balance the ability for owners to travel with their pets while ensuring animal welfare.
He explained: “We already have special procedures in place for these vulnerable breeds and the simple thing for us would have been to introduce a blanket ban. 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.
“These types of dogs are hugely popular but unfortunately they are high-risk flyers due to their respiratory systems 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.”
“Key among the changes we’re making is requiring sign-off from a vet before snub-nosed breeds can travel with Qantas, giving them the final say.”
RSPCA Australia’s senior scientific officer, Dr Sarah Zito, welcomed the proposed changes from Qantas as a valuable step towards addressing the risks of transporting brachycephalic dogs by air.
“Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds face particularly high risks from air transport especially during summer months. Their extreme features mean they often struggle to breathe and regulate their body temperature effectively, even in mild conditions, let alone at the hottest times of the year or on a plane,” Zito said.
“We’re very pleased to see Qantas building upon their existing policies to acknowledge and work towards addressing these risks. We look forward to working with Qantas to review the conditions under which these breeds are transported, and would urge pet owners to consider all potential risk factors prior to flying their pets.”
The new requirements are addition to Qantas Freight’s existing recommendations for transporting snub-nosed breeds at temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius and its policy that allows owners to rebook their pet in the event of extreme weather.
More than 40,000 pets are flown across Qantas’ domestic network every year, including some 2,000 snub nosed dogs.