Animal lovers were justifiably critical of Delta Airlines after sixteen pets died in 2010 during or after flights in the cargo hold. But even after banning frequently-overheating short-muzzled breeds like bulldogs from the skies, nineteen pets passed away during or shortly after Delta flights in 2011. That’s out of a total of 35 pets that died on U.S. carriers last year. In addition, nine pets sustained major or minor injuries, and two were lost.
One of those lost pets, the famous Jack, was later found in the terminal, and died from the effects of severe malnutrition and dehydration.
I read through reports for American and Delta, and most of the deaths were, at least according to necropsies, the result of travel-related stress triggering pre-existing heart or circulatory conditions. Some had no clear cause, and many pet owners refused necropsies.
Here, for example, are reports on the deaths of two guinea pigs during an international Delta flight:
Two Guinea Pigs died during transportation from Frankfurt Germany to Atlanta Georgia. The condition of the pets was discovered by the unloading agent and the passenger was notified. The temperature at Frankfurt was 50 and 70 in Atlanta. No reports of issues with systems that could affect cargo hold temperatures.
Cause of Incident:
Necropsies were completed. The first pet, Arthur had microscopic changes in the heart which were likely associated with the cause of death. The change in temperature, environment and stress could have decreased the ability to compensate for the heart disease and/or could have triggered an arrhythmia.
The second pet, Tuck also had changes noted in the heart that likely contributed to death. The stressful conditions probably decreased the compensatory mechanisms or triggered an arrhythmia and he had subsequent heart failure with pulmonary congestion and edema.
One injury report from Delta that caught my eye because it sounds like something my own dog would do:
Pet chewed on and attempted to swallow zip ties used to secure the kennel door. Material lodged between teeth, damaging gums and partially lodged in the throat. Dog was transported by the owner to a vet to be anesthetized and the zip tie end removed.
A Delta representative pointed out to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the huge proportion of pet deaths that occurs on its flights isn’t because of carelessness or incompetence; it’s because a large portion of the half-million pets that fly every year do so on Delta. Other carriers don’t carry pets in cargo. “The loss of any pet is unacceptable to us. We are working to improve the processes and procedures to ensure that every pet arrives safely at its destination,” Delta spokesman Anthony Black told the paper.
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