The Lung Association

The Lung Association

July 30, 2009 15:27 ET

Health Chair's Stance on Pet-Free Flights Very Disappointing: Lung Association

Association commends MPs Joyce Murray and Judy Wasylycia-Leis for championing rights of people with lung disease to travel pet-free

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 30, 2009) - The Canadian Lung Association today expressed disappointment in federal Health Committee Chair Joy Smith's stance on the issue of Air Canada and WestJet's policy to allow pets to travel in the passenger cabin of airplanes. The Lung Association launched an online campaign for pet-free flights in July following the decision by Air Canada to join WestJet in offering pet-free flights, despite the serious risks it presents to passengers and crew with asthma, COPD and severe animal allergies.

In response to the thousands of letters sent to her office, Ms. Smith stated in a letter to Canadians contacting her that she "... shares the concerns for the effects of Air Canada's decision on the health of those travellers with allergies", but avoids committing to holding public hearings on the issue citing that Air Canada's decision is "...operational... made by a private company at arm's-length from the Government."

"As Chair of the Health Committee, Joy Smith has a mandate to act in the best interests of Canadians with lung disease who may be adversely affected by Air Canada -- and WestJet's - decision to allow pets to travel in the passenger cabins of airplanes," said Cameron Bishop, Director of Government Relations for The Lung Association, "Simply because a company makes an "operational" decision does not negate her or her Committee's responsibility to review that in a public health context".

The Lung Association took the opportunity to commend the leadership of Committee Vice-Chairs Judy Wasylycia-Leis (NDP-MB) and Joyce Murray (Lib-BC) for agreeing to bring the issue forward to the Health Committee in the fall.

"We urge Joy Smith to listen to the thousands of Canadians who have contacted her on this issue and to reconsider her stance", said Mr. Bishop, "People with asthma, COPD, lung cancer or other respiratory diseases should not be put at risk because of an airline's desire to put corporate needs in business class while public health is forced to ride in economy".

The Lung Association is extremely concerned about the health of airline passengers and crew who may suffer from severe allergies to pets (dander, fur, saliva, urine) or whose asthma (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/asthma-asthme_e.php) or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)(http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/copd-mpoc_e.php) could be triggered by exposure to animal secretions or dander.

Air inside airplane cabins re-circulates - it gets recycled through the vents. Because airplane cabins are small spaces, it means that even a small amount of allergen, like the hair, saliva or dander of a pet, can spread quickly throughout the airplane cabin. The allergen in the air can reach every passenger on the plane, even people sitting far away from the pet. For people with allergies who have asthma (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/asthma-asthme_e.php) or COPD (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/copd-mpoc_e.php), pet allergens can trigger wheezing, coughing, and swelling in the airways - otherwise known as an asthma flare-up (asthma attack (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/asthma-asthme_e.php)) or a COPD (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/copd-mpoc_e.php) flare-up. These reactions can be serious and even life-threatening.

The Association continues to encourage all Canadians to visit www.lung.ca/petsonplanes to send a message directly to federal Health Committee Chair Joy Smith (C-MB), calling for hearings to consider the public health implications of allowing pets to travel in the passenger cabins of airplanes. The campaign was launched in July following a poll released by The Lung Association that found 80% of Canadians wanted Canada's airlines to offer pet-free flights (http://www.lung.ca/media-medias/news-nouvelles_e.php?id=152).

About The Lung Association

Established in 1900, The Lung Association (http://www.lung.ca/home-accueil_e.php ) is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.

Contact Information

  • The Lung Association
    Cameron Bishop
    Director of Government Affairs and Media Relations
    613-569-6411, ext, 223