U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is applauding the Department of Transportation (DOT) for moving to close a loophole which allows U.S. passenger airlines to skirt a requirement to more fully report animal injuries, deaths and losses. Yesterday was the deadline for comment on the Department’s proposed changes to the current rule which narrowly defines “animal” to mean one being kept as a pet.

Menendez says, “I wrote the ‘Boris Bill’ more than a dozen years ago because when our pets travel on U.S. passenger airlines, we have to ensure they’re not handled like baggage.”

Menendez’s bill was named for a boxer-pit bull severely injured during a trip in a cargo hold, was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000. It required airlines to report when animals die, are lost or are injured to the Department of Transportation. The DOT then publishes the data so consumers can make better informed choices for pet travel. The law also required better training for airline employees.

Under the George W. Bush Administration, the DOT implemented the law by defining the word “animal” as only those kept as pets and transported on the same flight as the owner. Airlines haven’t been required to report about the loss of cats and dogs transported by breeders, those with handlers for dog or cat shows or en route to pet stores.

“A dog is a dog is a dog, whether he’s on his way to a dog show, a pet store or vacation with the family,” explains Menendez. “Consumers deserve to know just how safely airlines transport animals, so they can make informed choices.”

In a letter to DOT Secretary Ray La Hood, Menendez and U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) praised efforts to expand coverage of protection to animals transported commercially and suggested that any final rule require carriers to report the total number of animals transported each year. The Senators hope that report leads to further protections protecting even more animals.