From Human Rights to Animal Rights: Travelling with Pets

Earlier this year, Air Canada announced that it would allow cats and small dogs to ride in the passenger cabin of its aircraft.  Although WestJet has for some time allowed cats, dogs, birds and rabbits on its flights, there was a negative reaction to Air Canada’s announcement.  Specifically, there has been strong opposition by allergy and asthma sufferers about the health hazards associated with having pets in the aircraft cabin. This past fall, the Canadian Lung Association commenced a “Say No to Pets on Planes!” campaign in an effort to urge the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to take action against the airlines.


The controversy over animals in aircraft cabins is not new.  In 2002, the Canadian Transportation Agency considered a number of complaints by passengers who had experienced allergic reactions during their flights, which they blamed on the presence of animals in the passenger cabin.  The Agency ruled that while an allergy per se is not a “disability”, there may be some individuals whose allergies do constitute a disability.  The Agency indicated that it will proceed on a case-by-case basis and is currently investigating three cases regarding allergies and one regarding multiple chemical sensitivities. The outcome of these cases may shed some light on the balance to be struck between the interests of pet owners and the rights of passengers with allergies.

It is worth noting that Air Canada and WestJet have taken steps to achieve this balance.  For instance, the type and size of animals allowed inside the cabin and the number of animals which can travel on any given flight are limited.  In addition, efforts are made to ensure that passengers with allergies are seated as far away from animals as possible.

Instead of banning pets from flights, one American carrier has gone in another direction.  Pet Airways  (operating out of Delray Beach, Florida) is a new pets-only airline that refuses to fly humans.


Air Canada’s travel information page on travelling with pets:

WestJet’s travel information page on travelling with pets:


Pet Airways Website:

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