The death of seven puppies last year on an American Airline flight from Tulsa to Chicago broke the hearts of pet owners everywhere, and once again raised the issue of pet owner and airline responsibilities.
We covered the danger of transporting pets, especially short-muzzle dogs in this space a while ago, but the deaths of seven out of the 14 puppies being transported is a clarion call for action and policy changes.
In a powerfully worded statement on August 5th, 2011, the Humane Society called for an investigation saying, “If these puppies died because of the hot conditions in the cargo hold, then this would be a violation of the Animal Welfare Act…the suffering that these animals may have endured before they died is difficult to imagine, defenseless puppies (probably) trapped inside a sweltering cargo hold.”
CBS News reported that the shipper put the puppies on Flight 851 scheduled to leave Tulsa (Okla.) at 6:30 a.m., but the departure was delayed by storms in Chicago.
As the plane sat on the tarmac, the temperatures rose to 86 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, even though American Airlines’ policy dictates they will not fly animals when the temperature is above 85 degrees. And they claim cargo temps typically are between 50 and 70 degrees.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends that pet owners not fly their pets in airline cargo holds, and Dr. Rocky McKelvey, regional medical director in Texas for VCA Animal Hospitals, told Texas radio station WTOP that he hates signing shipping papers for dogs, papers authorizing them to be shipped in the cargo holds. “I’d like to see them in the cabin,” he said
Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, told CBS News that animals under 20 pounds should never fly in the cargo hold. And while every airline has different policies regarding the transport of (pets (time of year; kind of pet; temperature restrictions) most airlines will allow one animal in the cabin per coach (Business, First and Coach) he says, but “they have to fit under the seat in front of you and you can’t take them out during the flight.”
Suggestions to safeguard pets in flight:
• Fly animals only on direct flight only
• Put ice cubes in a Ziplock bag, and just before departure, put the cubes in a water dish to insure your pet can hydrate
• Insist that your pet be removed from the plane if the flight is delayed. Greenberg emphasizes that only the pet owner is really responsible for the pet, and has the animal’s best interest at heart.
• Be certain you see your pet’s kennel cage loaded onto your flight, and if at all possible, use a professional pet transportation company, such as those found at Independent Pet Animal Transportation Association (IPATA)
I don’t know exactly how they do it, but IPATA says they “provide services that are in the best interest of the family pet.”
Anything is better than the brutal stories of puppies dying because of delayed flights sitting on the tarmac and overheated cargo holds.