"Dog Fight" in the Air: Guide Dogs, Airlines, and TransAtlantic Travel

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I received the following request for assistance.

The urgency of the appeal has special meaning to me as I have just completed two interviews with the founder of Outta Sight Travel, Jackie Hull. The second article deals specifically with travel and guide dogs.

Here is another example illustrating, as in the Spector vs NCL case, the need for internationalization of human rights practice, its harmonization between regions, and Universal Design thinking in design and management.

Dear Friends and Fellow Assistance Dog Users,

I am writing to request your immediate action regarding the refusal of all North American airlines to transport assistance dogs in the passenger cabin when traveling to the United Kingdom.


Background:

The Pet Travel Scheme is the system that allows pet animals and assistance dogs from qualifying countries to enter the United Kingdom without quarantine as long as they meet certain conditions set forth by the UK'S Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In December of 2002, the British government extended the Pet Travel Scheme,
(PETS) to North America so that pets and assistance dogs from the United States and Canada could enter on approved routes, however assistance dogs were Treated as pets and required to be transported in a "sealed crate' in the cargo hold of the airplane. In April of 2004, the British government removed the "sealing" requirement thereby making it legal to transport assistance dogs in the passenger cabin on flights into the United Kingdom. This was a great moment for assistance dog handlers worldwide who expected to be able to travel with their highly trained guide, hearing and service dogs at their side on flights to England. The British government left it up to each individual air carrier to decide whether or not they wanted to modify their practices and procedures to allow assistance dogs to be transported in the passenger cabin with their disabled human partners. Now, a year later not one U.S. based carrier has agreed to do so.

How You Can Help - In the United States:

  • Denying access to passengers with disabilities who travel with their assistance dogs is a direct violation of the Department of Transportation's accessibility rules under the Air Carrier Access Act (14 CFR Part 382).

    Please take time to contact both of your U.S. Senators and your Congressperson and request their help in breaking the stalemate with the
    airlines. They can do this by urging the United States Department of
    Transportation, (DOT) to include language in the ACA which mandates that in
    cases where a foreign government of a country to which they operate routes
    from the U.S. requires the establishment of agreements of transport to
    permit the legal transportation of guide and other assistance dogs to these
    countries in their passenger cabins airlines must establish any, and all
    agreements with the relevant authorities to remain compliant with the
    non-discrimination mandates of the ACA.

    This apparent loophole in the ACA is currently being exploited by U.S. based airlines to deny disabled airtravelers the right to be accompanied by their guide, or assistance dog in the airplane cabin on routes in to countries; in this instance the United Kingdom. Furthermore the United States Department of transportation, (DOT) is currently of the belief that because these airlines have not established agreements with DEFRA to transport assistance dogs in to the UK in their Passenger cabins they are not in violation of the ACA. Let them know that not one United States based airline has made arrangements with the British government to transport assistance dogs in the airplane cabin on flights to the United Kingdom.

  • Tell them that approximately 26 other non-American airlines have already signed agreements with the British government to accommodate the needs of their disabled passengers by allowing assistance dogs to fly in the safety and comfort of the passenger cabin rather than in the airplane's cargo hold.
  • Let them know that for over 15 years, disabled people have relied on The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to prohibit discrimination in airline service on the basis of disability.
  • Tell them why it is so important to you that they investigate, and
    demand that language be included in the United States Air Carrier Access Act
    which clearly mandates that to remain compliant under the ACA all U.S. Airlines must establish the required agreements with the governmental authorities of a country to which they operate routes from the U.S. when required to do so to permit the legal transport of assistance dogs in to these countries in their airplane cabins. Including such language in the ACA will establish a protocol all U.S. based airlines will need to follow in the future when faced with such requirements in order to comply with the Air Carrier Access Act.
  • It is clear that we need our government to step in to force the U.S. based carriers to do the right thing.

    We need everyone's help on this final step to force the U.S. based airlines to change their policies. Please take a few moments and contact your Senators and Congressperson today. While we would like for you to contact your own elected officials, we have focused our attention on members of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science Transportation - Aviation Subcommittee and the US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure - Subcommittee on Aviation.

    Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this request for your
    help. Although you may never wish to travel to England with your assistance
    dog, it is our hope that you will agree to help support those of us who do.

    It is imperative that our elected officials hear from as many people as
    possible on this issue, please share this message with everyone in your
    circle of associates and friends. If each of us can get five people to join
    our campaign we willbe able to make a powerful statement.


    Remember: Call, email, or fax your Senators and Congressperson as soon as
    possible - local office or in DC. If he/she is not on the Aviation Subcommittees, ask them to contact that committee and tell them the disability community needs their help in ending the stalemate with the U.S. airlines.

    Please note that I have included a sample letter below.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 949-376-9242

    or michael.hastings at cox.net.

    Sincerely,


    Michael C. Osborn

    Here is a sample letter:

    Michael C. Osborn

    Post Office Box 4256

    Laguna Beach, California 92652

    Phone: 1 949 376 9242 E-mail:

    E-mail: michael.hastings at cox.net

    7 March 2005

    The Honorable John L. Mica

    United States House of Representatives

    2313 Rayburn House Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20515

    Re: Refusal of U.S. Airlines to Transport Assistance Dogs

    In Passenger Cabins on Flights to the United Kingdom

    Dear Congressman Mica,

    I am a blind individual teamed with a guide dog, and on behalf of all assistance dog handlers I am writing to request your help with regard to the issue of transporting assistance dogs in the passenger cabins on flights from the United States to the United Kingdom.

    It has been nearly a year since the British government amended the Pet Travel Scheme making it legal for assistance dogs to be transported in the passenger cabin on flights into England. However, all of the major U.S. based air carriers that offer service to the U.K. have been unwilling to change their policies and we have reached an impasse.

    The United States Department of Transportation, (DOT) is currently of the belief that because our airlines have not established the required agreement with the UK's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, (DEFRA), to permit the legal transportation of guide and other assistance dogs in to the UK in their passenger cabins, and because the United States Air Carrier Access ACT, (ACA) (14 CFR Part 382) currently does not contain language that specifically mandates that airlines operating routes in to the UK, or to other countries with such requirements there is currently no violation of the ACA by these airlines.

    We need your help convincing the airlines (American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways) to abide by the Air Carrier Access Act andstop denying access to passengers with disabilities who use assistance dogs
    by exploiting loopholes in the ACA. Including language in the ACA that establishes a protocol all airlines operating routes from the U.S. to the UK, and to other countries with similar requirements will close this loophole, and will go a long way to ensuring true compliance with the ACA by all airlines.

    Those of us who are partnered with assistance dogs (guide, hearing and service dogs) will not compromise the safety of our dogs nor ourselves and will not allow our team to be separated and our dog to be shipped in a sealed crate in the cargo hold of the airplane.

    If you have questions or require additional information please feel free to contact me. Thank you in advance for any help you are able to provide in making it possible for those of us who use assistance dogs to finally be able to visit the United Kingdom for both business and pleasure.


    Sincerely,

    Michael C. Osborn

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