When boarding a flight, we all expect that the proper precautions have been taken to keep us safe. Passengers are mandated to go through security, airplanes are screened, safety videos are played, and flight attendants walk the aisles to ensure seatbelts are on before takeoff. Unfortunately, the recent tragic death of a family dog aboard a United flight exposed that the same safety standards and protocols are overlooked when it comes to animals.
It should be plain common sense that a live animal doesn’t belong in a cramped, dark, and poorly ventilated space. Yet, a flight attendant placed Kokito, a French bulldog, in an overhead bin, which led to the dog’s untimely death. A live animal is not a piece of luggage – and should not be treated as such. Even worse, the Air Transport Association estimates that more than 5,000 animals are killed, hurt, or lost on commercial flights each year. After hearing of this horrific situation – coupled with these startling statistics – I knew that something had to be done.
That’s why I, alongside some of my congressional colleagues, recently introduced the PETS (Planes Ensuring Total Safety) Act, bipartisan legislation that bans live animals from being placed in overhead compartments and institutes fines on airlines that fail to comply with these requirements. The strong support for change has also resulted in a Senate companion bill, entitled the WOOFF Act. By holding airlines accountable, we can help ensure the safety and care of animals as they travel.
This is an important step forward, but there is much more work to be done to assure the safety and welfare of animals. As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of helping those who cannot advocate for themselves – which is why I have fought to protect animals since my first day in Congress. I’m calling on my colleagues to not only quickly act on the PETS act, but other outstanding legislation that could help animals across the nation.
Bills have been introduced to increase penalties for those who maliciously hurt animals (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act), eliminate the use of dogs for experiments conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (PUPPERS Act), stop the use of animals for cosmetic testing (Humane Cosmetics Act), enhance protections for victims of domestic violence and their pets( Pet and Women Safety Act), and save U.S. horses from slaughter (Safeguard Food Exports Act). All of these bills have bipartisan support, and it’s time to move them forward.
Pets are not only loyal companions that are considered part of the family, but they are also a crucial part of our lives. Whether it’s acting as emotional support, helping guide the disabled, assisting those with severe medical issues, or just offering some company, animal owners deserve to know that their pets will be treated with dignity and respect. Our laws should always reflect that.
Congressman Donovan represent New York’s 11thCongressional District and is New York City’s only Republican representative. He has a 91 rating with the Humane Society in the 115th Congress and received an award from PETA for his animal welfare advocacy.