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Animal rights groups angry about apparent change to WestJet's policy on dogs
CALGARY -- Calgary animal rescuers and dog-lovers traveling on WestJet flights say they are angry after they heard about a proposed change posted to the airline's website Thursday evening.
In the post, which has since disappeared, WestJet said it was changing its policy regarding the import of dogs meant to be sold, adopted or handed over to a rescue organization. It said passengers must put them in the cargo hold and should have permits in case the dog is younger than eight months old.
WestJet said the move was not its idea and said it was due to a recent change by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
When CTV News asked for clarification on the policy, WestJet said the statement sent out Thursday evening was meant to ensure guests are aware of existing CBSA rules regarding pets as commercial imports.
"We have reinforced our procedures to ensure upon booking that we ask guests, who are importing an animal, if it’s a commercial or personal import, and proceed accordingly. It is the guest’s responsibility to meet the import requirements, for both personal and commercial animals," it wrote in an emailed statement.
When it came to shipping animals for commercial purposes, WestJet referred to a link to its cargo services.
News of the policy change has angered animal agencies that rely on volunteers to bring dogs on flights as accompanying passengers.
"This will damage us even if we can use cargo because its three times as expensive and we’re not staying afloat now, I’ll just be honest," said Belinda Morrison, co-founder of CB Rescue Foundation. "But we do it because we love the dogs and that’s all I care about is seeing their little faces."
Morrison also expects her rescue process to be stretched up to four hours in addition to the flight time if the animals are considered cargo.
When she reached out to the CBSA herself, she said she was told that the agency doesn’t intend to inhibit rescue groups like hers.
"I don’t want to blame anybody I just want the dogs to be saved that’s all I care about. It’s my mission."
WestJet Airlines has also provided CTV News with a document dated February 2018 detailing the CBSA policies on all dogs coming into Canada.
Air Canada's website encourages customers to contact Air Canada Cargo for information on shipping pets for commercial purposes.
On Friday, an air traveller bound for North Carolina to retrieve a dog he purchased from the United States says he sympathizes with rescue groups that will be impacted by the cargo policy.
"It’s already hard to book a pet on a flight with you, there’s already so many conditions and this will just make it much harder," said Darryl Ritchie.
Ritchie adds he’s glad he is flying before the changes take effect.
"For them to be have to be put into the undercarriage that’s very traumatic for the dog. It means a lot longer time without food."
WestJet says it understands the disappointment from guests and agencies that use them to transport rescue animals.
"We have successfully joined thousands of dogs with new homes in Canada. We recognize that this new regulation poses a challenge to rescue organizations however we are required to adhere to the regulations as set out by the CBSA."