November 2, 2001 What’s Next

At year’s end, it is appropriate to review where the bird shipping industry has been, and, most importantly, where we need to go to insure that bird shippers have all the regulatory and legislative assistance to continue their respective businesses without undue burdens from the air transportation industry.
As you will recall, the reason for the formation of the Bird Shippers of America (BSA) was in response to an announced air carrier policy that they would no longer air transport poultry by the U.S. Mail. With the active grass-roots support from the industry, we were successful in legislatively establishing the legal right to ship day-old chicks by airmail. This was accomplished by having legislation introduced in the Congress that eventually became an amendment to the Treasury and General Appropriations Bill in 2001. This was not easy undertaking as the industry faced well-funded opposition from the air carrier industry as well as animal rights groups. Again, with such continued opposition, by an amendment to the Farm Bill in 2002, we have insured that that protection will continue.
It might be added that in the aftermath of the tragedy September 11th, 2001, we had to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain an exemption for bird shipments as all packages in excess of 16 ounces were temporarily banned for cargo on passenger aircraft. We were also successful in this regard.
Certainly, significant steps … but there is further work that needs to be accomplished.
Most air carriers are now refusing to take day-old poultry when the temperature at the airport cargo facility reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F). That (inappropriate) guideline is one that has been established by the regulations under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that states, in part: “The ambient temperature…must not rise above 85 deg. F. (29.5 deg. C) for more that 4 consecutive hours when dogs and cats are present.” [Emphasis added]. 7 USC § 2132 (g); 9 CFR § 3.2(a). There are two material problems with that guideline.
Firstly, “poultry” is specifically exempt from the AWA and the regulations there under.
Secondly, and more significantly, the 85 degree F is an inappropriate temperature level in that day-old chicks are hatched in 95 to 100 degrees F and should be kept at that temperature from up to one week of age.
Attempts to “educate” the air carrier industry through the Air Transport Association Cargo Committee have not been successful.
However, we have caused a dialogue between the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Postal Service urging that a Postal Bulletin be issued regarding appropriate guidelines on the shipment of day-old chicks. So far we have obtained an acknowledgement from the Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services at the USDA that the temperature guidelines used by air carriers is inappropriate for day-old chicks. Discussions have taken place between officials at USDA and the USPS but nothing has been resolved to date.
This matter is a priority item and needs to be finalized as soon as possible. We may need to seek Congressional assistance in this regard. We shall keep you advised as to developments.
Under contract with the USPS, Federal Express (FedEx) took over the USPS Eagle air mail carrier program. In regard to the legislation that was passed regarding the USPS requiring air carriers who transport mail to “accept as mail shipments of day-old poultry and other live animals as postal regulations will allow to be transmitted as mail matter,” FedEx has maintained that it is not covered by the language of the legislation since it specifically states that the authority of the USPS “shall not apply in the case of any air carrier who commonly and regularly refuses to accept any live animals as cargo. 39 USC § 5402 (d). Federal Express maintains it does “commonly and regularly refuses to accept any live animals as cargo.” Id.
Not so. If you go to the FedEx website you will find the following stated policy:
FedEx does not accept live animal shipments as part of its regularly scheduled service. Live animals will be accepted when the shipment is coordinated and approved by the FedEx Live Animal Desk. Acceptable shipments include, but are not limited to, zoo animals (to and from zoo locations only) and horses (from gateway to gateway locations only). Household pets, such as domestic cats and dogs, are not accepted. For more information, please contact FedEx Live Animal Desk at 800 405-9052. [Emphasis added]. Fed.Ex. Terms and Conditions-Live Animals
In addition to its own stated policy on shipping specific general animal species (i.e., zoo species and horses), we know for a fact, that FedEx has shipped laboratory animals as well as other farm animals by air. Consequently, it is believed that the language of the legislation stating that the USPS can “require any air carrier to accept as mail shipments of day-old poultry and other such animals” would apply to FedEx since, by its own terms, it is not an “air carrier who does not “commonly and regularly refuses to accept any live animals as cargo.” Id. [Emphasis added].
This is an issue that will be pursued legally, administratively as well as legislatively, if necessary.
These is presently being developed a nationwide coalition of various associations, organizations, clubs, businesses, and individuals interested in seeking legislation requiring air carriers to accept any live animal as air cargo under reasonable regulations. These formal groups range from species specific such as dogs (sporting and show), cats, birds, the entire pets industry and its specific interests (including fish, birds, reptiles and other mammals), medical research, entertainment (e.g., circuses), and zoos. Proposed legislation has already been drafted where it is intended to seeking its introduction in 108th Congress convening in January 2003.
The industry has come a long way from the day we faced virtual extinction as an industry due to the announced air carrier policy of not taking day-old chicks and other poultry by airmail transport. These accomplishments certainly could not have been achieved without your grass-roots response urging and supporting Members of the Congress in their legislative efforts in the face of strong and well-funded opposition. The industry has a way to go but we are confident with your continued support and assistance we can achieve our goals.
Happy holiday and best wishes for the new year!
Murray McMurray, Chairman

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