Following the decision by Air Canada to join WestJet in allowing pets to travel in airplane cabins, The Lung Association has launched an online campaign calling on federal politicians to protect the health and safety of airline passengers and crew who may suffer from severe allergies to pet dander  or have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The Lung Association has also asked Air Canada and WestJet to compromise by designating some flights as pet-free. “We’re worried that profit is taking a front seat and public health is taking a back seat,” says Cameron Bishop, director of government affairs for The Lung Association. “We want to help Canadians to express their views on the issue of pet-free flights.”
A poll released by the association found that 80 per cent of Canadians want Canada’s airlines to offer pet-free flights. In addition, 75 per cent of Canadians believe that the federal government has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of passengers and crew.
Bishop hopes the campaign will convince Parliament to hold hearings this fall to review the public health ramifications of the airlines’ policies. “We, of course, recognize the need for service animals or guide dogs to be allowed on flights,” he adds. “We just request that passengers be alerted to their presence.”
The campaign has received the support of thousands of Canadians like Monica Peterson, who has asthma and a severe allergy to cats. She was flying on a WestJet flight from Winnipeg to Victoria last year when her eyes started watering and her airways became congested. “When the plane was unloading, it turned out a cat was under the seat in front of me. Luckily it was a short flight; it was alarming that there wasn’t even a warning that pets were on board.”
When Traveling with Asthma, Pet Allergies or COPD:
- Check with the airline beforehand to try to get on a pet-free flight.
- Take your medications regularly and follow your asthma action plan.
- Use your rescue inhaler 20 minutes before boarding the plane.
- Speak to your doctor before traveling. You may need medications adjusted for the flight.
- Always have your medications with you – never keep them in checked baggage.
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