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Virgin Australia Is the Latest Airline to Ban ‘Flat-Faced’ Animals on Flights| Travel + Leisure

Alison Fox

Virgin Australia is banning pets with flat faces from flying due to fears about breathing problems and overheating, joining U.S. airlines in doing so.

The move comes after a spate of recent deaths of snub-nosed dogs on fellow Australian carrier Qantas, which resulted in the airline issuing a temporary ban while it reviews its policies.

The airline announced on Friday that they ceased accepting bookings for animals considered “brachycephalic breeds,” like Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Pugs, and Shih Tzu, as well as several cat breeds like the American Burmese and Persian cat, and rabbits like the Lion Head or Lop. The airline said it would honor bookings made before Friday, but “strongly recommend pets five years or older of this breed type are not presented for travel due to welfare concerns.”

The carrier is joining U.S. airlines including Delta and American in the new regulation.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that short-nosed dogs are more prone to respiratory problems because they have to “pack all of the same anatomical structures in there that dogs with longer snouts do.” They are therefore more sensitive to changes in air quality and temperature while in the cargo hold.

“While we understand that snub-nosed breeds are a popular choice of pet, they are a high-risk animal to transport due to their known respiratory issues and other health problems that may be compounded inflight,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson told the Daily Mail. “Virgin Australia has made the difficult decision to no longer accept bookings for snub-nosed breeds until further notice.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals applauded the move to ban the breeds from flying, the Daily Mail noted.

“These flat-faced or ‘brachycephalic’ breeds are at particularly high risk as their extreme features mean they often struggle to breathe and regulate their body temperature effectively – even in mild conditions, let alone at the hottest times of the year, or on a plane,” RSPCA scientific officer Sarah Zito told the paper. “The inherent risks to these flat-faced breeds are unfortunately so great, that even with the best care, we believe transporting them by air is simply too dangerous.”

The ban wasn’t the only news to come out this week concerning animals and flying. On Wednesday, Delta introduced an innovative pet carrier for use in the cargo hold featuring real-time updates, a built-in hydration system to replenish a spill-proof water bowl, and strong walls to protect pets against temperature fluctuations.

And this all comes as the Department of Transportation solicits feedback from the public on potential changes to its service animal definition and whether it should no longer require airlines to accept emotional support animals.