When pigs fly? New rules protect animals on airplanes

Family pets like dogs and cats have long enjoyed special protections on airplanes, but now federal regulators are moving to safeguard all animals traveling by air, whether they are snakes, birds or flying pigs.

The Department of Transportation's new rules will require air carriers to report the loss, injury or death of any animal on board, the agency wrote Wednesday in the Federal Register. Some air carriers were already required to do this, but the new rules expand the reporting requirements to more animals and more air carriers, which were previously not covered.

The Transportation Department will then publish these reports, so fliers can determine which airlines are the safest for their pets. Federal officials say this will help pet owners sleep easy, knowing their animals are safe and secure. 

The new rules will cover an additional 12 air carriers, which previously were not required to file these reports.

All carriers will be required to file a year-end report in December, stating how many animals were transported on their airplanes and how many, if any, of those animals had problems. In addition, during months in which an animal is lost, injured or killed, that airline will have to file another report.

The new rules go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.