More than 74K sign petition for WestJet to lower new pet transfer fees

It's now more expensive for rescue organizations to transfer pets using WestJet.

The airline increased its cabin and hold rates for animal transfers earlier this month

WestJet has increased its pet cargo fees starting Dec. 3. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A Change.org petition to fight WestJet's fee increase for pet transfers has garnered more than 74,000 signatures in three weeks.

On Dec. 3, the airline changed how much it would cost to transfer a pet via cabin or in hold, with the exception of pet cabin travels within Canada or to the U.S.

The highest spike is seen in travel between Canada and destinations outside of the U.S. for pets in hold — a $125 increase from $75.

WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email the changes are due to the airline having to offset higher costs in "challenging and competitive markets."

Melanie Coulter with Windsor Essex County Humane Society says she has spoken to people who had to leave pets behind when they moved because of a number of factors, including expensive air travel. (Mike Hargreaves/CBC)

For rescue organizations that do international transfers, Melanie Coulter, executive director of Windsor Essex County Humane Society, said it could mean those organizations would have to "reduce the number of animals" they help.

"In some cases, you can offset those costs through donations," said Coulter.

She said an airline's safety record is important to consider, and wondered if WestJet raising the fees might be a way to ensure the pets are transferred safely.

However, when CBC News asked the airline if that is the case, Bell reiterated the rise in fees is to better align with industry pricing.

Bell said even with the price increase, WestJet prices are still lower than some competitors.

One example is Air Canada, which charges people anywhere from $170 to $500 to transfer a pet within Canada and $245 to $650 to transfer outside of Canada.

Aside from rescue organizations being affected, Coulter said people who are moving to a new home might feel the impact as well.

She's spoken to some people who had to make a big move, and due to a number of issues, they had to give up their pets or leave them with friends.

"It may limit their ability to travel with their pet, and unfortunately result in some pets being surrendered if that gets too high," said Coulter.

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