A petition is circulating calling on a Canadian airline to reconsider its decision to more than double its fee to fly animals beginning next week.

As of December 3, WestJet will increase the cost of checking an animal in a kennel from its current rate of between $75 and $88 CAD to between $100 and $118 CAD for domestic flights or flights to the United States and between $200 and $236 CAD for flights destined to locations outside of Canada or the United States.

The cost of travelling with a pet in a cabin will remain at between $50 and $59 CAD for domestic flights or flights to the United States. The fee for bringing an animal in the cabin of the aircraft for flights destined to locations outside Canada or the United States will increase from between $50 and $59 CAD to between $100 and $118 CAD.

In a statement to CTV Calgary issued Thursday afternoon, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell addressed the increase.

“These changes have been made to better align with industry standards and to offset WestJet’s higher costs in today’s challenging and competitive markets.  There has been no change to fees for pets travelling in the cabin between/within Canada and the U.S. and our fees remain lower than our Canadian competitors’ for animals in hold. “ 

“While we understand the disappointment of some of our guests that rescue animals will be included in these changes, we continue to support charities and not-for-profit organizations in the communities we serve through our Airport Community Giving program where WestJetters review and support donation requests based on their community's local needs and priorities.”

The fee hike has animal rescue foundations, including CB Rescue Foundation in Calgary, concerned.

“Whenever we find a dog that needs help and we think that nobody else will step up, we’re going to go and help them,” explained Belinda Morrison, who started the organization alongside her husband two years ago. “We take dogs from high kill shelters that have less than 24 or 48 hours to live and we bring them to Calgary to find wonderful homes.”

Morrison says the non-profit foundation has helped dogs from Calgary, neighbouring First Nations, and around the world including the recent rescue of 100 Chihuahuas that were scheduled to be euthanized in Las Vegas. 

CB Rescue Foundation has no paid employees and the founders often pay for expenses out of their own pocket.  According to Morrison, the airline’s planned price hike for transporting animals will cripple their efforts.

“WestJet is known as a humanitarian airline all around the world. They unfortunately will be increasing their prices on December 3 and there is a big uproar. I think I speak for all the rescues across Canada that we need WestJet’s help. Increasing the price, basically, will mean that we won’t be able to help as many dogs. They will die.”

“I don’t know how non-profits are going to be able to do this. We barely stay afloat.”

Animal rescue foundations and their supporters have been clamouring on social media accounts and, on Wednesday, took part in an email writing campaign directed at WestJet. An online petition ‘Animal Rescues – Say NO to Westjet [sic] Price Increase’ has also been created calling on the airline to reconsider the fee increase. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

“All the rescues in Canada are doing their best to see what they can do to change this policy,” said Morrison. “When we fly them here, we’re saving their lives and that’s the most important thing.”

With files from CTV's Stephanie Wiebe