Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pitbulls Fly the Unfriendly Skies

There's been a lot of buzz over a new airline that exclusively flies pets called Pet Airways. But apparently some pets are flown only by special arrangement, which the customer wouldn't know unless they downloaded and read the Contract of Carriage (pdf) from the website:
The following shipments shall be acceptable for carriage by Carrier only upon Advance Arrangements:

(D) Shipments of the following breeds of dog: Pit Bull, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Saffordshire (sic) Bull Terrier, Presa Canario.
I wondered exactly what these "advance arrangements" were so I contacted the airline to inquire but so far, no response. I was hoping their answer might shed some light on why these special arrangements were required for just these particular breeds which are often the victims of breed profiling. Owners of these breeds may face extra challenges in trying to rent a home, obtain home insurance, or even keep their pets after someone else's dog bites someone in the community. It seems they won't catch a break on Pet Airways either which is too bad since the company's business idea is a good one.

If Pet Airways responds to my inquiry, I will update the post.

Bringing up from the comments, from EmilyS, 4-24:
according to a friend, PA has tweeted ""there are red carpets awaiting pit bulls 2 & we have revised our Contract of Carriage as we do not discriminate at Pet Airways"

I looked at their website and indeed, the offending part of the contract has been removed.


Biscuits for everyone!

The section naming the bully breeds has been replaced by:
(D) Shipments of pets with past aggressive behavior.

That sounds like it would even apply to my 10# mixed breed "Emily" who bites (she would have gotten a free pass under the previous language). So too bad Emily, you won't get to go on any flight crew eating binges anytime soon, hehe.


jan said...

I hope this isn't just a way for the airline to capitalize on reputation and make more money.

Joel said...

At Pet Airways we do not discriminate against any breed we state this in our contract of carriage solely for liability purposes. We are not trying to state that the types of dogs above are all aggressive or anything of that nature, but we want to ensure we can handle all types of pets aggressive or not in the proper manner.Please understand that we handle it in this manner to ensure the safety of the pet and its owners.

EmilyS said...

Joel you ARE stating that the breeds you mention are different, and dangerous. Please don't treat us like we are stupid and can't understand the English language.

If you weren't making that statement and discriminating against certain dogs because of their breed (or type), you'd require liability waivers from ALL dogs, because ANY dog might behave "aggressively" in the kind of stressful unusual situations you are putting them under. But it's only those few breed/types. By definition, that is discrimination.

And WHY would you have to worry about dogs acting aggressively... are you allowing them to mix with each other during the flight? Is this some kind of mile high dogpark?

Is the following FAQ still on your website? I couldn't find it, though I have a link that works.

"What animals are restricted from transport?
Only Humans are restricted.
No domesticated household, ie regular pets are restricted from Pet Airways, but we have a responsibility to protect all our pawsengers and our staff. For certain dog breeds (Pit Bull, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Presa Canario), we will require additional information regarding disposition, bite/aggression history and factors/situations which may cause aggressive behavior. Additionally, we will require pet parents of these breeds to sign an acceptance of liability for the consequences of any aggressive behavior occurring during any Pet Airways service."

What is your position with PetAirways? What is the position of "Nick" whose email responses to me were increasingly irrational and rude?

Heather Houlahan said...

Joel, I see that you have not yet started shipping pets.

Therefore, on what basis do you single out a few breeds of dogs "for liability purposes?" What EXPERIENCES have led to this company policy? Please be specific.

Why don't you require information about past aggression history of the animal and a liability waiver from the owners of ALL animals?

Is mauled by a collie okay, but nipped by a Presa an international incident?

Joel said...

Look Emily we apologize if you thought the email to you before was rude and we will talk to Nick to ensure all pet owners are treated properly. Additionally, I am not trying to talk to you like you are stupid, but due to legal reasons we have had to put that text in our contract of carriage. The reality is this we work with Best Friends to transport those very dogs that you say we are discriminating against. In fact, we are the only airline that even would consider transporting dogs with aggressive pasts.

Furthermore, the quote you copied above does not state that we are only asking owners of those types of breeds to sign a liability waiver for those pets. It just mentions that we will ask the owners of one of those types of breeds to sign a liability waiver. You can assume what you would like, but never does it say that those are the only types of breeds that have to sign a liability waiver.

We can't control what you think is discriminatory, but we were created to offer all types of pets a safe alternative to traditional air travel. If you choose to travel with Pet Airways that is your own decisions, but we have a service that will change the way pets fly and we hope that our service can help save many pets lives by offering future pet owners to adopt and no longer be tied down by distance barriers.

EmilyS said...

Joel, what "legal reasons" would those be that force you to have a liability statement only for certain named breeds/types? Who came up with that weird list anyway? It's not even the tip of the iceberg of breeds that are banned across the US because they are "dangerous". Where's the Rottweiller, the Husky, the wolfdog, the German Shepherd Dog.....???

And yes, I find it BIZARRE that Best Friends would partner with, and promote, a company that discriminates against the very dogs it is trying to save. You do understand that BF's position is that "pit bulls" are NOT different from other dogs and that they deserve to be treated the same way other dogs are treated?

Is BF aware of your policy and willing to sign such liability statements?

I confess that I don't get your point that "even though these types of dogs are the only ones we name they're not the only types of dogs whose owners we will require liability agreements from".

At what point will you inform your customer that she will have to sign such a statement? Before --- or after--- she's made all the arrangements and reservations and paid for the flight? How will you determine what breeds/types of dogs you will require these statements from? Who's going to determine what a "pit bull" (which is not a breed) is, anyway?

Don't you get that it would be so much more proper and simple on all counts if you required that the owner of EVERY dog you transport describe any "aggressive" past behavior and sign a liability statement?. What will you do if one of the "innocent" dogs hurts another dog under your care? You're far more liable because of the implied safety .. after all if that dog's owner didn't have to sign a liability statement, you must be guaranteeing that the dog is completely safe. Better talk to your lawyer again.

YesBiscuit! said...

Joel, I'm not sure where I'm failing to communicate my position that this is breed bias but let me try this. If you were a regular airline and your website said you fly people but in the "fine print" it said that Blacks and Latinos could only fly by special advance arrangements, that would seem obviously discriminatory. Does that help clarify my question?

EmilyS said...
"dis⋅crim⋅i⋅na⋅tion   [di-skrim-uh-ney-shuhn]
2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit....

If you were a legislative body, we'd call your policy "BSL". Like BSL, a policy doesn't require outright banning to be called "discrimination"

Joel said...

How about this look at our actions not the words right now. We are constantly refining aspects of our site, legal documents, and operations. I will promise you that we will look into this to see if there is another way we can word this to make it appear non-discriminatory. Be patient and for now look at the actions we are doing with Best Friends and hopefully we can come to a resolution that appeases everyone in the near future. I hope this sounds like a fair solution.

Maria said...

"I will promise you that we will look into this to see if there is another way we can word this to make it appear non-discriminatory."

How about instead of just the appearance of fairness all dog owners get the real deal?

Katie said...

What makes you think my pit bulls *have* an "Aggressive past"? What makes you assume my neighbor's Labrador Retriever *doesn't*?

YesBiscuit! said...

Joel, I am confused when you ask us to look at your actions. My understanding was that you are not yet open for business, therefore I don't know what actions to look at.
I think the only way you'll be able to "word this to make it appear non-discriminatory" is to actually have it BE non-discriminatory by deleting the breeds which have been singled out and replacing them with "all dogs". Or just scrap the entire idea of "special circumstances".
I did receive an e-mail response from someone at your company today but I requested permission to quote and never heard back.
I am glad to know you are at least examining this issue and I look forward to seeing if any changes are made.

Susan Fox said...

I suspect that because he perceives his company to be doing "a good thing", Joel has been caught off-guard by being questioned or criticized.

Props to him for showing up here, but he needs to figure out that the only way forward is apply the same requirements to ALL dogs they take on board one of their planes.

It sounds like the lawyers for Pet Airways have taken their cue from the insurance industry, which has deluded itself into believing that if it can just avoid insuring owners of certain "breeds", however that is defined, then life will be good and risk reduced.

Some kind of waiver is probably a good idea, but, as Emily points out, the passengers should never, ever have the opportunity for contact with each other or the humans.

Maybe Joel and crew need to put their energy into policies and procedures for that instead of trying (and failing) to come up with The List, which will be out the window the first time someone's undersocialized pizzapoo takes a chunk out of someone else's great dane.

EmilyS said...

according to a friend, PA has tweeted ""there are red carpets awaiting pit bulls 2 & we have revised our Contract of Carriage as we do not discriminate at Pet Airways"

I looked at their website and indeed, the offending part of the contract has been removed.


Susan Fox said...

Pet Airways goes on my A list. Three cheers for them!

spotted dog farm said...

damn, good job pet airways, and GREAT job, YesBiscuit!, EmilyS, and everyone who is kicking ass and using their blogs to make a difference in the lives of these dogs and their owners! bravo!