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  • Jan
  • 6

For Animals, the Skies Are Anything but Friendly

Posted by at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

We’re re-posting this piece in light of the news report about a Virginia couple who purchased a flying squirrel and had him shipped by the cargo department of American Airlines. The squirrel died while in transport.

The holidays are over, and if you’re like me, you’re already making winter vacation plans and a list of what to pack. Wherever our travels take us, if we’re getting there by air, one “item” that never belongs on our list is our animal companions.

An analysis by a San Francisco–area TV station found that 302 animals died, were injured, or disappeared on commercial airlines during a six-year period. One of these animals was Bam Bam, a large 2-year-old dog who died en route from Miami to San Francisco. According to Bam Bam’s guardian, the dog was left on the hot tarmac in 85-degree heat for nearly four hours during a layover in Houston. When he arrived in San Francisco, Bam Bam’s guardian was informed by airline officials that the dog “didn’t make it.”

Air travel is far from friendly for four-legged fliers. It’s especially crucial never to fly our animal companions in any plane’s cargo hold. Transporting animals as cargo puts them in danger of temperature extremes, both while sitting on the tarmac, as in Bam Bam’s case, and often in the air. Other dangers include rough handling and being lost in transit. And since planes’ cargo holds are designed for luggage—not living, feeling beings—they usually lack the ventilation and climate control found in passenger cabins. Temperatures inside cargo bays can quickly reach deadly extremes, especially during waits on runways.

Many animals have been killed during transit, including a dog named Enzo—who died of heat stress in a plane’s cargo bay despite his guardian’s repeated pleas for the airplane crew to check on him as the plane was delayed for hours on the runway—and a dog named Jed, who was brought out of the holding bay not breathing and covered with urine, feces, and vomit. He had died of suffocation from a lack of oxygen. Even if animals survive a flight, the experience of being tossed among the luggage in a loud, dark, strange place, far from their guardians, is extremely traumatic for them.

If we must fly with our animal companions, taking them in the cabin with us is the least dangerous option. Well in advance of the trip, select a sturdy carrier that is large enough to allow the animal to stand up comfortably and turn around yet small enough to fit under the seat.

For most animals—especially those who are too large to fit in the cabin or are unsuited to flying—the safest and least stressful option is traveling by car or staying at home with a trusted caretaker while we are away. We’ll be glad that we didn’t risk it when we return home from our trip to find our beloved animals safe and happy, eagerly waiting for us at the door.



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  • Alison says:

    Oh, reading this makes me more scared and nervous.
    I have a cat, my furry baby, and I’ll take him with me, ’cause I’m going back to my homecountry. That means, we have to take at least 3 planes. Is an over-30-hours flight. I’m terrified, but I will not leave him behind.

  • Diane says:

    Years ago I moved back to California from Texas and brought my kitty of course. When I got there the airline couldn’t find her. I was waiting in the baggage claim area and eventually her came – down the luggage shoot! Poor Aubrey. I was so mad, but so relieved to have her back. I had her for 18 years. Best cat in the world.

  • tess2u says:

    I completely agree with the info presented about how to travel well with a pet. I can say that it is not always the airlines fault, having traveled many times internationally with pets having lived overseas in several different countries. It is not always entirely the airlines fault. I have seen people with cats crammed in acrylic carriers so narrow and poorly ventilated, they could not turn around. Often people travel with pets whom are ill, or have not been acclimated to their kennels so they completely panic when suddenly confined, or they try to use crates or kennels that are broken; the zipper does zip completely or the crate is missing a bolt or the door is flimsy…
    I traveled with several cats a dog and a rabbit from ASia and had no problem. Delta was very good about taping the crates (just in case they fell apart) for additional security, and I made sure to familiarize my animals with their crates by leaving them out for a month prior . they quickly adopted their cozy crates as nests. I was even able to acclimate a previously chained outdoor dog to his crate. I followed all the advice on the airline website which included booking direct flights, evening departures so it was cool when we both departed and arrived. I tagged all the kennels and my animals and upon boarding made sure the flight attendants knew about my animals below. I even asked them to let me know when they were boarded, which they were kind enough to do. Sure, my babies were scared but there was no way I was going to leave them behind.
    If I may add, if I had seen my animal sitting on the tarmac as long as that gentleman in the video claims he witnessed, why did he allow it? Why didn’t he speak to someone?

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