It’s a good day when people put their pets in wheelchairs, so thanks to a recent court ruling, that’s a good day when you fly with your pet, too.
In March, a California woman challenged Allegiant Air’s requirement that passengers register at least 48 hours before they travel with a pet — because, not coincidentally, the owner spent most of that time lounging at home. And then, before boarding her scheduled flight, the woman tracked down a lawyer who was on vacation and deposed the alleged airline official responsible for enforcing the policy.
The next day, the California appellate court sided with the woman, ordering Allegiant to let passengers fly with their animals without registering. “The state courts have consistently recognized that one of the fundamental freedoms of the American citizen is the right to transport one’s property,” the court wrote. And the ruling has gained international attention.
However, the ruling is limited to the plaintiff and might make the exact same kinds of travel arrangements more difficult for a lot of other travelers. Several animal-friendly companies have asked for clarification from the courts, saying that the ruling could have unpredictable consequences in their relationships with property, airline and pet travel managers say.
Unsurprisingly, the ruling has faced praise from pet owners, law professors and animal-rights activists alike. “This is exactly the kind of victory that many folks would hope to see in a democracy,” says Graham Day, an animal law professor at Texas A&M University.
That outcome shouldn’t come as a surprise. Animal rights have been incorporated into the Constitution since 1971, and states across the country have laws regulating the carriage and transportation of pets. But it’s been much more common for airlines to do away with the 46-hour pet registration requirement. With new automated ticketing kiosks and enhanced animal medical checklists, flying with a pet is far less burdensome than it used to be.
The Los Angeles-based attorney and animal-rights advocate John Joe Bracquer helped organize the court challenge, saying that he wants to “protect animal rights so that they will be practiced widely around the country.” The plaintiff’s attorney, Christopher Unger, says the ruling will be a big step forward in the interest of eliminating unnecessary restrictions on dog owners. And Bracquer thinks those restrictions go far beyond animal identification: “I don’t think people should have to mark their pets in order to fly,” he says.
Allegiant, the airline at the center of the case, tells the Washington Post that it’s not considering an appeal. Before, if someone didn’t meet the travel paperwork requirement, they could opt out of pet service. Now, they can’t.
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