Dogs on Airplanes: A Hazard for the Airline Passengers or the Dog?

ask a vet a question, pet health problems, dog skin issuesPart One

As you may have seen on the news, a 12 pound Manchester terrier recently bit two people on an airplane en route from Newark to Phoenix. Though the bites were not serious, the pilot landed the plane in Pittsburgh as a precaution.

Granted, I have no idea how extensive the wounds were, but in my opinion, this pilot likely landed the plane to calm the passengers, not because the dog was posing an actual threat.

Fear-biting is believed to be the number one cause of dog bites sustained by people. People that are unfamiliar or uneducated in dog behaviour language will continue to be bitten everywhere they act on ignorance—the dog park, doggie day care, dog shows, or yes, even a plane.

Why, you say? I have been on planes where passengers became severly ill, more so than a dog bite—such as when Dr. Jed herniated a disc in his spine on our
L-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G flight to SE Asia sitting in tiny seats engineered for the shorter Asian flying population (no joke).

Want further reason that the airline was not actually concerned about the safety of their passengers and was merely looking to diffuse the situation? The woman and her dog were indeed asked to not board the plane again when it re-embarked for it’s original destination.

The catch?  The woman and her viscious dog were allowed to board another plane shortly after.

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Is this the future of air travel? I think not.

This was all about chaos control. Herniated discs and other potential medical emergencies are often ignored, as long as the “scene” can be managed.

A “ferocious” Fido on the loose caused quite a stir amongst passengers, not so much for the danger, but it’s just not a situation that you experience everyday. Look at the controversy it has stirred in the media, after all.

Many anti-pet people are using this as ammunition to keep pets off of planes. “Our safety is at risk!” “We worry so much about airline travel safety as it is, do we have to be scared of dogs too now?” “Even dogs can be terrorists!”

Sounds pretty ridiculous to me. Let’s speculate at how this 12 lb monster ended up biting two people.

Dog not used to flying, check. New situation, check. Sensing owner’s apprehension and feeding off it, check. New pressures, on his ears and not knowing that chewing gum helps ease the pain, check. And let’s face it…little old lady owner, check. She is 89. You’ve seen them on the roads. If you deny that perhaps some members of the elderly population, and she is REALLY elderly, are not the quickest to react and adapt to situations, then you and I should just agree to disagree. Top it off with a stranger poking their fingers through the traveling carrier trying to “calm” the dog, and it’s easy to see why the dog bit.

Fear-biting is believed to be the number one cause of dog bites sustained by people.

People that are unfamiliar or uneducated in dog behaviour language will continue to be bitten everywhere they act on ignorance—the dog park, doggie day care, dog shows, or yes, even a plane.

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Even the sweetest of dogs can bite out of fear.

Too bad there wasn’t a veterinarian or dog trainer on board to bring the situation under control sans dog teeth marks.

Stay tuned for Part II when I discuss SECRETS revealed by an former TSA employee about the truth of pets on the tarmac!

Wondering if it is safe for your pet to fly? Ask a veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s health and explain the risks associated with flying for your pet.  Have you ever flown with your pet?  Did everything go smoothly?  Tell us!

Safe travels,
Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

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December 7, 2010 at 20:54

Amen to all this! Fido fur-ever! Just blogged about this, too! I am more afraid of people on flights than an animal any day. This world is messed up.

December 8, 2010 at 10:15


Yes, it is ridiculous! I just can’t believe it didn’t happen sooner! Sooo stupid! And putting animals below with the luggage is so sad and dangerous. :-( Thanks for commenting!

Jen Schatzman
December 10, 2010 at 23:55

I have had a bad experience with TSA and the whole pet transport thing. It was an awful experience but beyond that, my Keesha got the worst flu-like illness she has ever had. It must have been cold and she must have been near or in contact with sick animals under there.

Thanks for all you guys do to debunk the things that pet owners probably take for granted. Really cool.

December 11, 2010 at 21:18

Hi Jen,

I am sorry you had a horrible experience with Keesha. It is so sad she got so sick–outrageous the conditions in which the animals are kept in the plane’s belly!

Thanks for commenting!