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ROSE NOLEN: Cost to move pets should not be prohibitive

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

In America, most people consider their pets to be members of the family. They go where the family goes.

So when most military families travel, their pets travel with them. Well, that's about to change. According to a new United Airlines policy, pets that can't fly in the cabin will have to be put in cargo, instead of in checked luggage. This change could cost some families hundreds of dollars more. According to United, this new charge is not an airline charge. The cost is for animals coming in from Japan where the law requires an extra fee be paid to a third-party handler.

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Starting in March, United will merge with Continental and adopt a program called PetSafe. Pets usually fly at a cost of $250 from the United States to most foreign locations. Some military families said they have been told the trip back home for their pets could cost up to $1,400.

Rules and regulations for people wanting to keep pets are changing all the time. Some renters have a difficult time finding a home that will allow them to have a pet. Even when they do, the deposits often make pet ownership impossible. Cost for medical care for pets is sometimes prohibitive. Animal shelters are always looking for people to adopt, but unfortunately there are no places for inexpensive animal health care in most areas.

I've always thought poor children need pets more than most people. Having an animal to love and take care of can fill a special need in the life of a child. However, the cost of keeping an animal when there are other mouths that must be fed can be hard to do.

Most of my friends are pet lovers. Those who live outside the city not only have dogs and cats but horses and goats as pets. One friend took in pets with disabilities; she named her house a "funny farm." Another friend keeps an alligator. Many are in the business of rescuing pets that have no families.

In many ways, taking in a pet is like adopting a child. When I was growing up, pets were free to roam the streets at will. Now, they have to be tagged and licensed, and their owners have to be able to prove they are protected from disease. When they are taken for walks or exercise, their owners are required to carry plastic bags to recover their waste. When some people find animal waste on their lawn, they become indignant and are likely to call the police and report anybody with an animal who might be guilty.

In small towns, groundhogs and opossums take advantage of the scarcity of dogs in the population to assume occupancy in neighborhoods. And while most people despise these creatures, which are not endangered, more than they do dogs or cats, they have little or no means of keeping them away.

Most animal owners tend to be good neighbors. They love their pets, and they prefer to live in neighborhoods where people are kind to animals. When an animal is missing, total strangers often join the search.

Fortunately for people in the military, the high cost of flying with animals so far only applies to those who live in Japan. On their own, most people obviously don't feel the need for dog-sitting services especially when they are traveling with their own pet. Hopefully, this is not a law that America is thinking about putting into effect.

Obviously, no one wants to go away and leave his or her pet behind. However, there will undoubtedly be those who cannot afford the cost of transport. And those caught in the middle have no choice.

Since the new regulation will not go into effect for a week or two, perhaps those with animals can arrange to send them home ahead of time.

People who don't like animals will see this as hardly a problem. But those of us who have pets say: Here's hoping!

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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