International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

The following letters were sent to Mike Osborn in response to his request for help and information while he was in the United Kingdom working on changing British policy concerning the transportation of assistance dogs in the cabin on flights lasting more than five hours.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
President: Ed Eames, Ph.D.
3376 N. Wishon, Fresno, CA 93704-4832
Phone:  (559)224-0544  Fax: (559)224-5851  E-mail:  eeames@csufresno.edu

Board of Directors:
Chris Branson, Toni Eames, Jill Exposito, Joan Froling,
Lynn Houston, Carol King, Devon Wilkins

March 5, 2004

Michael Osborn
PO Box 4256
Laguna Beach, CA 92652

Dear Mike,

Good luck on the BBC! Please have the program taped so we can hear it and it can be sent on to others.

Zoonosis refers to diseases transmitted from one species to another. It is believed that the first occurred in other primates in Africa and was passed on to humans. More recently, mad cow disease has been in the forefront of diseases that can be passed on to humans by eating diseased cow brains. The most feared zoonotic disease able to be transmitted from dogs andother animals is rabies. That fear is offset through vaccination protocols and testing for the efficacy of the vaccine in the blood stream.

Another canine to human type of transmittable disease are the various forms of worms. However, these can only be transmitted by humans stepping barefoot in contaminated dog feces. There is no evidence suggesting that being in a confined area, like the cabin of an airplane, for periods beyond five hours increases the probability of zoonotic disease transmission. Evidence suggests that zoonotic diseases transmitted from dogs to humans are not of the airborne variety. Contamination takes place by contact. In fact, the probability of being contaminated by a fellow passenger infected with influenza, pneumonia or SARS is much greater than the potential threat posed by an assistance dog in the cabin, no matter how long the flight.

Dr. William Jarvis then director of the infection control unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated almost a decade ago in discussing the impact of assistance dogs in medical facilities, that the presence of an assistance dog was less of a threat to patients than visitors or other patients.

In a recent federal court case in Pennsylvania, a jury unanimously found that a hospital in Chambersburg violated a blind patients rights when she was denied access to the emergency room with her guide dog. The hospital argued it was only trying to protect other patients who might be allergic, phobic or open to the transmission of zoonotic diseases!

Hope this helps!

Ed Eames, Ph.D., President

March 5, 2004

Dear Mike,

Just spoke with Dr. John New, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine. As an expert on the spread of diseases, particularly from animals to humans, he made the following points:

  1. There is no zoonotic disease he knows of that becomes more virulent or probable after five hours in a fairly confined area.
  2. Having dogs in airplane cabins for long periods of time is comparable to having them in a train compartment or bus. Is there any time restriction on guide dogs in the UK on buses or trains?
  3. If the zoonotic disease has not been passed to the human partner who is with the dog 24 hours a day, there is little probability of transmitting it to a fellow passenger with minimal contact in the airplane cabin.
  4. Salmonella is one of the most widespread diseases that could be transmitted from dog to human, but a passenger is more likely to contract this disease from airline food than from an assistance dog.
  5. All parties to the discussion must admit there is risk in having the dog in the cabin, but does this offset the benefits to the disabled person? How does this risk compare to the general risks of flying, such as having hot coffee spilled in the lap, catching cold or other disease from a fellow passenger, having a bag from the overhead compartment fall, etc.

What John says is important is to have the proponent of the zoonotic position indicate what specific disease he/she is talking about and address that issue. Unfortunately, John is the one with the expertise to take that tack!

Once again, good luck!

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