As Air Canada prepares to join WestJet in allowing pets to travel in the passenger cabin of airplanes, the Canadian Lung Association’s survey finds that most Canadians believe that pets in the cabin can be detrimental to the health and safety of passengers and crew members. The association says that because airplane cabins re-circulate air, even a small amount of an allergen like hair, saliva or dander of a pet can spread quickly throughout the airplane cabin, and reach every passenger on the plane. Pet allergens can trigger wheezing, coughing and swelling of the airways in people who have allergies, asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). These reactions can be serious and even life-threatening.
"If someone brings a dog or cat onto an airplane and there’s someone with asthma on board, it can trigger a potentially fatal asthma attack," said Dr. Peter MacLeod, medical spokesperson for The Canadian Lung Association, "While such attacks would be rare if your asthma or COPD are properly managed, it would take just one fatal case to have these policies reversed, and it’s a shame if it comes to that. From our perspective it is better to be safe now with the health of Canadian travelers and air crew, then sorry later."
The poll also found that 75% of Canadians believe that the federal government has a responsibility to take action on this issue in order to protect the health and safety of passengers and crew. The Lung Association is calling on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to examine this issue when the Committee resumes sitting in the fall.
"We all love pets. This is not about trying to deny people the privilege of traveling with their furry companions. We think we can arrive at an important middle ground that balances the love of our pets with the health and safety of airline passengers and crews," said Cameron Bishop, Director of Government Affairs for The Lung Association.