Laws introduced years ago to spare Barbados from diseases likely from the unregulated importation of animals have become the source of “conflict” involving the island’s vital tourism sector.
The United States Department of Transportation is mandating that airlines traveling from that country “must” allow “service animals” including cats and dogs to accompany disabled passengers.
But Barbados TODAY learnt that the requirement is now a major source of concern for the American airline industry and at least one Canadian carrier which travel here because it contravenes Barbados’ Animals (Diseases and Importation Control) Regulations.
As a result, they wrote a senior American aviation official last Thursday requesting a special waiver of provision.
Investigations further revealed that with 125 flights due from the US and Canada to Barbados this month alone, the industry association feared if it did not get the requested waiver in time carriers which fly to Barbados, including American Airlines, JetBlue, US Airways, and Air Canada would be forced to bar disabled travelers from bringing their “service animals” on board to avoid conflict with authorities at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
The majority of the 125 flights from the United States to Barbados this month were by American Airlines (60 from Miami and 30 from New York), JetBlue (27 from New York) and the remaining eight by US Airways, and Air Canada.
Under the US regulations, a service animal is defined as one “that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a qualified person with a disability or any animal shown by documentation to be necessary to support a passenger with an emotional or mental disability”, including dogs, cats, and monkeys.
In a March 28, 2013 letter to Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings at the US Department of Transportation, Samuel Podberesky, however, Airlines for America Assistant General Counsel, Douglas Mullen, pointed out that the airlines his organisation represented could not simply transport service animals to Barbados because of restrictions under the island’s Animals (Diseases and Importation Control) Regulations.
“…Barbadian laws prohibit the importation of dogs, cats, … directly from the United States and Canada. Thus, these foreign laws directly conflict with Part 382 of the department’s regulations, which, effective May 13, 2009, required US air carriers to transport service animals under Part 382 and foreign carriers to transport service dogs,” he said in the four-page piece of correspondence.
“Accordingly, A4A on behalf of its passenger-carrying members is requesting a conflict of law waiver pursuant to 14 C.F.R. 382.9 from the requirement that carriers must permit certain service animals to accompany passengers with a disability on flights from the United States or Canada to Jamaica or to Barbados.
“A4A requests that the department recognise that airlines will have no choice but to require that passengers comply with these Barbados regulations in regards to service animals other than dogs and cats, and if a passenger does not comply, the airline will have to refuse to carry the animal,” Mullen added.
He also pointed out there was no way to avoid the Barbados regulations because they were “legally binding foreign legal mandates” applying to all air carriers and passengers traveling here.
“There is absolutely no action that A4A members could take pursuant to … Barbadian laws that would enable the carriers to legally transport passengers’ service dog or cat from the United States to a Barbados airport (or service dog from Canada). Consequently, a conflict of laws waiver is required,” the official stated.
The association also said that unless the waiver was granted there was “no alternative means” for the airlines to comply with the non-discrimination rule related to animals.
In seeking to give clarity on the regulation in June last year, Podberesky said airlines “must” not only “permit a service animal used by a passenger with a disability to accompany the passenger on his or her flight”, but also “permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability to the passenger’s assigned seat and remain there if the animal does not obstruct the aisle or other areas that must remain unobstructed to facilitate an emergency evacuation”. (SC)