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American Airlines Lifts Breed Ban

(Monday, May 05, 2003)
After months of negotiations, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has learned that American Airlines is reversing its ban on Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and any mixed breeds containing one or more of those breeds. Effective May 17th, 2003, all dog breeds will once again be accepted for shipment, and new safe container requirements will be imposed uniformly for all animals traveling as cargo or excess baggage.

Acceptable kennels used to ship dogs will require releasable cable ties attached to each of the four corners of the kennel door. American Airlines will provide the releasable cable ties to the customer at no cost and the ties must be attached to the kennel by the shipper. Acceptable kennels must meet the requirements of the International Air Transport Association Live Animal Regulations and may be purchased from American Airlines.

American Airlines first implemented its breed ban in August, 2002, following an incident involving a "pit bull" puppy that escaped its crate and damaged the cargo hold of a plane. This was clearly a case of crate failure and was unrelated to the breed of the dog involved. The AKC immediately launched a nationwide letter-writing campaign to the airline, calling on fanciers to contact American Airlines and express their opposition. AKC Chairman of the Board Ron Menaker, Vice Chairman David Merriam, and President Al Cheaur� personally contacted the carrier and offered the AKC as a resource to establish kennel regulations for safe shipment of all breeds of dogs.

In addition, AKC worked behind the scenes with representatives from American and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animal Board to focus on strengthening crate requirements to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. AKC federal government relations consultant James Holt negotiated proposed changes to the container regulations, including a strap proposal, with American Airlines last fall, shortly after the breed-specific embargo was put into place, and attended an IATA meeting in October to discuss uniform crate standards

The AKC consultant also worked out a strategy with then Director of Live Animal and Dangerous Goods Cargo Operations, Richard Powers, at American, who was very cooperative with AKC in trying to end the breed-specific embargo. It was tentatively agreed that American would adopt the strap proposal as a carrier-specific requirement, and then use that as the basis for dropping the breed-specific embargo. The plan was interrupted, but not derailed, by a major layoff at American in November, 2002.

Outraged purebred dog owners were quick to respond to AKC's call to action and over the past several months have flooded the airline with letters, faxes and e-mails. Many national breed clubs whose breeds were targeted by the ban organized additional grassroots efforts. All of these communications no doubt helped convince American Airlines to resolve this issue, thereby improving travel conditions for countless responsible dog owners and their well-mannered dogs.

Congratulations to all involved!

For updated information on airlines' policies for shipping dogs, click here.

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