I read this Wall Street Journal piece this past Thursday, which informed me that animal travel is scarily unsafe. So much so that large airports are teaming up with local veterinary and animal welfare officials to tackle the pressing problem of pets succumbing to travel-related mortality.

Just a snippet:

Last year, 39 animals died while in the care of airlines, up 70% from 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Thirteen animals were injured and five were lost, DOT said. Delta Airlines had the largest increase, with 16 deaths and six injuries in 2010 compared to six deaths and no injuries in 2009.

It's a big issue, to be sure. After all, most of us travel a lot. And most of us are less willing to leave our pets behind than ever before. Hence, more pets in the air. So is it any wonder more pets are succumbing to air travel-related death?

These staggering stats presumably led Ed Freni, aviation director of the organization that runs Boston's Logan International Airport, to inform us of the following: "Transporting animals truly can be done more safely."

Which is why Logan has a program to teach its first responders how to properly handle animals, recognize signs of distress, and perform basic life-saving procedures or offer injury-stabilizing care. Which is great. We need more hands on the ground when things go to hell in a handbasket up in the air.

The problem, however, remains: The airlines are not doing an adequate job of keeping our animals safe. Though they claim that air travel for pets is safer than ever, it's hard to believe they're doing much about their mortality program when the DOT is tracking stats like these.

To be fair, DOT does not track the total numbers of pets flown, so it's hard to tell whether Delta really has as big a problem as any of the others or if the overall rate of death is truly higher in 2010 than in 2009.

I'll give them that much leeway, but no more. Because if keeping animals safe truly were a priority, they'd have come up with a pet safety program years ago instead of waiting for first responders to decide that they're tired of seeing the airlines' passengers die on their watch.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Flying Cat by Photo Extremist