A parrot is loaded onto a Continental Airlines plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Friday, April 16, 2010 in Houston.
Airlines will have to follow stricter requirements for reporting incidents involving animals — including pet deaths — beginning next year.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) finalized Wednesday its new rule for animal incident reports, expanding the requirements to more airlines and to more animals.
"This rule will provide consumers with a fuller picture of the safety record of airlines in the transportation of animals," the DOT stated.
There were 42 airline incidents involving pets including 21 pet deaths in 2013, and 58 incidents with 30 deaths in 2012. The new rule is likely to increase those numbers, but also put them into context.
Many airlines are already required to file animal incident reports; the new rule will require an additional 12 carriers that offer scheduled passenger service and have at least one plane with more than 60 seats to comply. Each carrier will have to file a report in December with the total number of animals transported, with how many were lost, injured or died during transport.
Monthly reports filed with the DOT include the details of each incident, like this one filed in March by American Airlines.
Any animal kept as a pet, whether warm- or cold-blooded, is counted, as is any dog or cat being shipped commercially on a scheduled passenger flight.
Despite requests from animal rights organizations that all species be counted, the DOT declined to go that far.
"We are not expanding the definition of 'animal' to cover all species of animals," the DOT rule states. "We believe it would be unduly burdensome to require covered carriers to report the death, loss, or injury of all species of animals because there potentially could be thousands of individual animals such as fish, rodents, and insects that are transported by air carriers in a single commercial shipment."
Although incidents with pets are relatively rare considering the total number of animals transported by airlines each year, every loss is terrible for the owner.
The Humane Society recommends avoiding air travel with a pet unless absolutely necessary.
"Consider all the alternatives to flying," the organization states on its website. "If you plan to bring your pet on vacation, driving is usually a better option."
The Humane Society also recommends that if a pet is transported by air, it should travel in the cabin with its owner instead of in the cargo.
"Animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year," according to the society. "Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are often to blame."
In addition to being a tragedy for the owner, pets killed during air transport are also tracked by Wall Street.
The new rule will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
Tags: AIR TRAVEL, AIRLINES, LIFESTYLE, PETS, TRAVEL, TRAVEL & LEISURE, U.S