Dr. Dolittler

Airlines’ ban on ‘pit-bull types’ is baseless



Q. I have a 3-year old terrier mix named Nicky who travels with me once a year for Thanksgiving. Because she weighs 30 pounds, we always fly her in cargo and have never had a problem. This year, however, the airline turned her away, saying they have a policy that excludes all pit-bull type dogs. But Nicky isn’t a pit bull at all. Her parents were terriers of two different breeds. The airline says they’re trying to protect breeds with respiratory problems, but Nicky doesn’t even have a snub nose. Is there anything I can do?

Perhaps not, but thanks for asking, since I believe this wrongheaded policy deserves to be exposed for what it is: a misguided attempt to limit corporate liability at the expense of you, the consumer. After all, pit bulls are not considered brachycephalic (snub-nosed) breeds with respiratory issues that would preclude cargo travel.

Despite the fact that such breed-specific regulations have been deemed by both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Centers for Disease control to be without scientific basis, several airlines limit consumer freedoms by dictating which breeds can and cannot fly.

Unfortunately, these policies also dictate that any mixes of specific breeds must endure similar restrictions, a provision that renders them especially arbitrary.

According to our current understanding of canine genetics, what a dog looks like often doesn’t match what you might think the parents’ genetic material would produce, which means that any number of breeds could produce what an airline considers a pit bull appearance.

The bottom line is that airlines need to start concentrating on the safety of their cargo holds, work on their animal handling skills and stop passing the buck by restricting passage to dog breeds they consider undesirable.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

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