28 05, 2021

COVID-Detecting Dogs Could Reduce Airport Rates of Transmission

By |2021-06-01T08:18:17-06:00May 28th, 2021|Blog|0 Comments

A collaborative study between Durham University, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and a group called Medical Detection Dogs might improve the quality of air travel. The researchers have trained dogs to detect positive COVID-19 cases, and the study could have far-reaching implications for frequent fliers and beyond. 

Dogs have an acute sense of smell. Humans have approximately 6 million olfactory receptors in their noses, while dogs can possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors. Dogs also use a part of their brain for smelling that is proportionally 40 times larger than the same part in humans. The discerning noses of disease-sniffing dogs can identify cancer, narcolepsy, and malaria. In a global pandemic, it makes sense to lean on dogs’ superior sense of smell to aid in COVID-19 detection. 

 

What the Study Found

In this Phase 1 Trial, dogs sniffed out COVID-19-19 on masks and other articles of clothing. The dogs were away from identifying false-positives, so they can correctly identify both positive and negative cases. Training took about 6 to 8 weeks. The dogs in the study range in age from 4 to 6 years old, and their breeds are Cocker Spaniel, Labrador, or Golden Retriever. 

COVID-19 carries a specific odor to these dogs’ expert noses. Scientists are still trying to figure out the exact chemical makeup that produces COVID-19’s identifiable smell. The dogs had an 82% to 94% sensitivity rate in their ability to detect the presence of COVID-19, while the specificity rate ranges from 76% to 92%. This specificity measurement indicates whether the dogs could tell if a person did not have COVID-19. The dogs are able to identify COVID-19-positivity even in asymptomatic cases. 

The study’s authors still point to the PCR test as the top COVID-19 detector, but COVID-detecting dogs can be useful in crowded places. Using dogs to screen for COVID-19 at airport terminals could result in a 91% detection rate, and reduce rates of transmission. When a COVID-detecting dog identifies a traveller as COVID-positive, the next courses of action would be quarantine and a PCR test. 

COVID-19-detecting dogs could also act as a visual warning to travelers who might consider traveling while infected. This method of detection could also prevent the need for travelers to quarantine. 

However, spatial conditions could reduce detection rates. The dogs’ ability to identify COVID-19 might suffer depending on how crowded an indoor space is, or if outdoor spaces have increased airflow. Additionally, COVID-detecting dogs have different specificity rates and cannot guarantee universal rates of detection. 

 

What About the Pups?

This COVID-19 detection method does pose a risk to the dogs themselves. Dogs can be infected with SARS-COV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. The illness presents both asymptomatically and to varying levels of infection, just like its symptomatic range in humans. 

The Phase 1 Trial findings should ultimately be considered tentative as the research is still awaiting peer-review. The Phase 2 Trial will test dogs’ abilities to identify COVID-19 in infected people, not just masks and articles of clothing. As results from the Phase 2 Trial become publicly available and applicable, COVID-detecting dogs could change the landscape of airport viral transmission for the better.

19 04, 2021

How to Get Your Newly Adopted Dog Ready for Post-Covid Life

By |2021-04-16T11:03:53-06:00April 19th, 2021|Blog|0 Comments

Pandemic pets are one of the brighter points of life with covid. The pandemic brought about a surge in animal adoptions caused by people seeking companionship with a new pet. Unsurprisingly, these newly adopted dogs have brought happiness into their owners’ lives during a very challenging time.

But many dog owners are now facing the reality of leaving their homes (and dogs) to go back to work for the first time in several months. This transition can be rocky, so we put together a guide to get your newly adopted dog ready for a new normal.

 

Establish a Routine for You and Your Dog 

A consistent routine is key to adapting your adopted dog and keeping them happy. You likely already have structured mealtimes, walks, and nap built into your day. However, if these times conflict with your new post-covid schedule, you will need to start getting your dog used to a new schedule.

Trying to impose a new schedule abruptly will likely make your dog stressed. Instead, you should aim to make little changes over a longer period of time. This will help to gradually introduce a new structure. This process could take longer for adopted dogs who have only known one type of daily structure, having their owner in the home all day. In making a new routine, line up play time or walks with when you will be able to give that attention when work picks back up.

 

Preparing Your Dog to Travel 

While you may not be thinking of making any significant travel plans soon, thinking about how to include your newly adopted dog in a trip is a good idea. Similar to establishing a new routine, preparing your dog to travel should be gradual.

For car travel, use positive reinforcement to help your dog feel comfortable. Start with short car rides to get your dog used to getting into and out of the car. Give your dog treats to make them recognize the car as a good place. Over time, your dog should be ready for longer trips.

It’s a bit harder to practice for air travel. All pets on planes require a crate, with the expectation of qualified service animals. You can work to acclimate your dog to their crate at home. This can take time. That said, it’s important your dog can feel comfortable in a crate since they will have to be in a crate throughout the entire flight. Owners will not be able to know how their dog will react on a plane until they have a flight. Any amount of preparation is worthwhile to help your dog find comfort in a stressful environment.

 

Adjusting to a New Normal

We know it is sad to think about leaving your dog at home, especially when you are used to spending the whole day together. Post-covid life will be a big adjustment for both of you. Remember to be patient, stick to a routine, and enjoy the time you do bond.

23 03, 2021

How the Emotional Support Animal Ban May Affect You

By |2021-03-23T10:28:20-06:00March 23rd, 2021|Blog|0 Comments

As vaccinations become more readily available to the American public, the possibility of travel feels attainable. After over a year of varying levels of lockdown, it is also incredibly enticing. However, passengers will not be returning to the same flying environment they left before the pandemic. Many major airlines placed a ban on emotional support animals on planes in 2020 after the Department of Transportation announced emotional support animals would not be considered service animals.

 

The Basics of Emotional Support Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a “dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.”

Emotional support animals can provide service and comfort to their owners. This ban has put many owners in a state of desperation. 80% of owners would pay in order to ensure their pets were seated with them instead of in the cargo hold, with just about 20% of owners willing to spend at least $300. Prior to the ban, emotional support animals were ticketed and boarded with their owners. Service dogs are still able to ride with their passengers for free, although some airlines will ask for the service dog’s certification forms.

Passengers and organizations that oppose the presence of emotional support animals point to an 85% increase in incidents involving emotional support animals since 2016. Almost 2 of every 5 flying passengers have been on a flight where an incident involving an emotional support animal occurred. Two notable incidents are a dog biting an American Airlines attendant in 2019 and an emotional support pig defecating in a plane’s cabin in 2014.

 

The State of Flying

This ban affects more than just passengers who have support animals themselves. In fact, 48% of airline customers report they feel happy when seeing an animal on the plane. 10% of people reported reduced anxiety when there is a support animal on the same flight.  On the other hand, 11% of people are annoyed with the presence of support animals, 10% feel increased anxiety, and 9% of passengers have an allergy to animals. Other passengers had a more diplomatic view: 34% of airline customers understand support the ban on emotional support animals, while still wishing customers who need the support could have an alternate option.

Airlines for Americans reports that over one million passengers brought emotional support animals on plane rides in 2019, and 90% of people who tried to certify pets as emotional support animals were successful. This spike in passengers with emotional support animals is a direct result of loosening restrictions, which ultimately might have led to the 2021 ban.

Though that spike likely resulted in exploitation of the emotional support animal system, the ban will place untold strain on passengers who relied on that source of comfort. Unfortunately, the passengers with emotional support animals will not be the only ones suffering. Over half of American passengers prefer flying next to animals than babies or toddlers. The post-pandemic travel boom will offer all passengers a less animal-friendly cabin.

23 02, 2021

When Will Traveling Return to “Normal”?

By |2021-02-23T08:55:41-07:00February 23rd, 2021|Blog|0 Comments

We have been living through the pandemic for roughly a year now. We think it is safe to say that many people are thinking of the days to come, when we can go out in public comfortably. Maybe we’ll even be able to take a vacation. Normally, plans would start taking shape for the next vacation or road trip with your pup a few months out. The pandemic has put those plans on hold, but with the vaccine rollout underway, we might start to see some things return to normal. To give you a bit of a heads up, we wanted to share some information about how the vaccine will affect the traveling and tourism industry in the months and years to come.

 

The Vaccine and Travel Restrictions

The immediate future of traveling by air will likely include a proof of vaccination. As countries continue to vaccinate their citizens, having the vaccine is a safer precaution than simply testing negative for the coronavirus before flying. The pandemic has not greatly impacted traveling with pets. Airlines made a rule change in 2020 that prevents emotional support animals from boarding for free. However, pets, like dogs and cats, can still travel in the cabin for a fee.

Travel restrictions will likely stay in place for the time being until the daily cases decline. You can view a list of state travel limits here. To that end, predicting which airlines will require proof of vaccination is hard. Much of post-COVID-19 travel is, ironically, still up in the air. Travelers should see more clarity within a few months.

 

What Is the Current State of Tourism?

The pandemic halted tourism and hurt many businesses dependent on the industry. The vaccine may represent the hope of returning to normal life, but it may be awhile until tourism is viable again.

Businesses reliant on tourism will have to find ways to adapt their practices to provide safe ways for people to travel and engage with tourism activities.

Even with the vaccine, travelers will likely be cautious to return to pre-COVID-19 tourist behaviors. People might fear large crowds and cramped spaces, which the tourist industry will have to work around. There are several factors to think about in terms of tourism recovery. It will likely take a few years for tourism to regain strength, but eventually, we expect it to come back in full force.

 

Pandemic Vacation Options 

Until more people are vaccinated, air travel will remain very risky. Vacation options, like camping or road trips, remain a good way to have a change of scenery while maintaining social distancing. Plus, driving with your pet is much easier than flying with them – and cheaper, too. Hotels have increased their cleanliness procedures, making them safe places to stay for short-term trips. If you are itching to get away for a small trip, stick to options that allow for responsible practices.

COVID-19 precautions are still very necessary despite the vaccine getting to more people. The vaccine is a huge step to building herd immunity, but that process will take time. You should still avoid non-essential travel until health officials and airlines indicate a reduced risk for travelers. Travel will come back eventually, so patience is key.

 

29 01, 2021

Evacuating with Pets During a Natural Disaster – Everything You Need to Know

By |2021-02-01T07:53:45-07:00January 29th, 2021|Blog|0 Comments

Planning for natural disasters is something none of us want to think of. But the more prepared you are, the better. This is especially true when you need to factor pets to your evacuation plan. Natural disasters come in many forms. Some are more relevant based on the region you live in. Regardless of the disaster, we want to help you feel equipped to get you and your pet to safety if you find yourself in an emergency.

 

Precautions for Pet Safety

There are some precautions you can take with your pet that can help in an emergency. The key here is properly identifying your pet. This includes the minimum of a collar with the pet’s name and your contact information. Opting to microchip your pet increases the chance of locating your pet if it gets lost. Another precaution is always having up-to-date records for your pet at the ready. These simple steps will go a long way if you must evacuate.

 

Assemble a Disaster Kit 

In the event of a disaster, you may need to quickly leave your home and travel to a safe destination. You will want to make sure to have a disaster kit for your pet in a convenient location. Having a kit packed for your pet is the easiest way to ensure your pet has what it needs without you scrambling to pack a bag during the emergency.

Here are some of the items to consider including. The first category is documents. The paperwork should cover your pet’s vaccinations, microchip information, and medication. This is relevant in the event you need to activate the microchip or if shelters or vets require documentation for sheltering your pet. You will also want to pack a two-week supply of food and water for your pet along with any necessary medications.

Other than these items, you should pack a leash and collar, a pet carrier, and something warm for your pet to sleep on. For a full checklist, you can reference this one from the CDC.

 

Make a Plan

On top of a disaster kit, you will want to have an evacuation plan for you and your pet. This involves identifying a place to seek shelter for the duration of the emergency. The Humane Society covers this step in more depth, including links to find pet-friendly lodging. It is a good idea to make a list of places to go for different scenarios. You likely cannot predict how long you will have to be away from your home, so you should have options.

 

After an Emergency

Emergencies can confuse your dog and make them feel uncertain when you return to your home. Depending on the severity of the emergency, your pet may even have injuries that you need to tend to. Understand that you will need to keep a close watch on your dog until they acclimate. Be sure that you keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier until you can assess the safety of your home after a disaster.

 

19 12, 2020

The Emotional Support Animals Policy is Changing – Again

By |2020-12-14T07:05:04-07:00December 19th, 2020|Airlines, Blog|0 Comments

As of a December 2020 rule change, airlines will impose different rules on emotional support animals. These airlines will no longer automatically approve animals that might have normally been allowed to fly. As a passenger, you may not have even been aware of the policy, let alone the adjustment. We’ll get you up to speed on both and let you know what the policy change means for travel with emotional support animals.

 

Emotional Support Animals on Planes 

You’ve likely heard about emotional support animals before. In fact, you’ve probably seen one on a flight. While most associate them with dogs or the occasional cat, emotional support animals can be any animal. Here is where problems arise for airlines. Before the December 2020 policy change, airlines allowed most emotional support animals on flights for free to accompany their humans. This meant that airlines allowed pigs, birds, or any other animal an person owners claimed as emotional support to board. If you think that sounds made up, take a look at this example of a woman who tried to board with her peacock. This clearly was a recurring problem, and airlines spent time and money asking the Department of Transportation to change national policy.

Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are trained to assist owners with challenges caused by a disability. Service animals are allowed to travel with their human at no cost, without question. However, the inclusion of emotional support animals, in all their forms, as service animals allowed untrained animals on planes. Considering the two types of animals as one left airlines without concrete policy grounds for denying certain animals.

 

The New Emotional Support Animal Policy         

Here are some key highlights of the differences. The core of the policy update is that the Department of Transportation considers emotional support animals as pets, no longer as service animals. A secondary change is that service animals can only be dogs. The ADA had already defined service animals as trained dogs, so the airlines are now consistent with their definition.

This new rule will impact groups differently. For airlines, this will largely impact which animals can fly and how they charge animals flying. They can more readily prevent untrained animals from flying without being held to the same rules as normal pets. Those flying with service dogs will not be impacted as they still maintain the right to fly with their animal. The passengers who once were able to travel with their emotional support animals will face the most change, as it is no longer guaranteed that their animal can fly with them.

For most airlines, the policy is a good thing. They hope that this change will improve the flying experience for those who dislike animals on planes. This policy restores the essential function of trained service animals for their owner. This can translate to greater legitimacy for the work of service animals. People who were once able to fly with their emotional support animal may be frustrated with the change, but that is to be expected. As a result, this update is bound to have mixed opinions.

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