Another Airline Disaster—Your Animal Companion’s Safety Is YOUR Responsibility

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Update: Even though there are countless dogs in California shelters (many of whom will be euthanized if not adopted), Cory Mcjimson decided to buy a dog as a gift for his 5-year-old daughter, reportedly paying $3,000 for a 12-week-old Yorkshire terrier. He had the puppy, named Sebastian, flown from a breeder in Ohio to Los Angeles International Airport. When he arrived at the airport and opened the crate that Sebastian had been flown in, he discovered that the dog was dead.

Paying thousands of dollars to buy a puppy from a breeder and fly him across the country is despicable no matter where you live, but the fact that Mcjimson was in Los Angeles—a city whose shelters are flooded with tens of thousands of animals every year—makes his actions even more appalling.

This dad could have adopted from a shelter and saved a life, but instead a dog died when he paid $3,000 to fly him from an Ohio breeder to LAX.

Please, if you’re ready to add a cat or dog to your family, adopt—don’t shop. And never fly your animal companion as “cargo.” Remind your friends and family to keep their animal companions safe, too.

Originally published on October 25, 2019:

In the latest installment of the tragic “don’t fly your animal companions as cargo” saga, a U.S. Army captain’s companion cat allegedly went missing following her return home from an overseas deployment. When Molly McFadden landed in Dulles, Virginia, and went to collect Milo and Beau (her two companion cats) from baggage claim, she discovered that Milo’s crate was broken and empty, according to reports.

The incident occurred earlier this month, and according to McFadden’s “Milo Is Missing” Facebook page, the cat has still not been found.

“I did not think I would spend my first week home just desperately searching for my cat,” said McFadden.

Animals flown as cargo regularly go missing or die during transport, as demonstrated by the slew of tragedies discussed below. It’s up to each of us as guardians to prioritize our animal companions’ safety. Keep reading to find out how to proceed if you have to fly your animals.

Originally posted on September 23, 2019:

While being kept in the cargo hold like a piece of luggage, a dog named Rock reportedly “fried” to death during a United Airlines flight from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was “cooked alive” during a stopover in Newark, New Jersey, according to reports.

Although the tragedy occurred in 2017, it’s making recent headlines for United’s lack of regret, as alleged by Rock’s guardian, John Paul Ciancimino. Although United initially claimed that the dog died after chewing through and escaping from his kennel mid-flight, veterinarian reports say different—that he died of heatstroke.

Some 18 animal companions, including Rock, died during United flights in 2017, according to reports. JetBlue and Southwest airlines have prohibited the practice of confining companion animals to cargo holds, where they endure noise, extreme temperatures, and sometimes inadequate pressurization. United must do the same, before yet another sensitive animal suffers and dies in one.

While Ciancimino laments, “Rock was a member of the family,” and says that his son and daughter are devastated by the dog’s death, ensuring his canine companion’s safety was his own responsibility, too. Dogs are part of the family—so if you wouldn’t let your child be put into a cargo hold, you shouldn’t let your dog be kept in one, either.

Originally posted on May 8, 2019:

On Friday, May 3 (according to The Florida Times-Union), a Miami Air International flight traveling from Cuba to Jacksonville, Florida, slid off the runway and into the St. Johns River. Although the 143 human passengers reportedly survived the incident, not all the passengers did. Two cats and one dog, who were reportedly part of a family aboard the plane, died in the cargo hold. First responders reportedly checked the cargo area but couldn’t see any crates “that were above the water line.” It appears that the three individuals drowned.

A fourth animal companion, however, did survive—a dog who was traveling in the main cabin with a guardian managed to exit the aircraft safely, proving (as the slew of tragedies below also do) that animals should never be kept in a cargo hold.

Originally posted on March 27, 2019:

A 22-month-old “prize-winning” dog named Gale escaped from her crate on March 23 while workers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport attempted to load her into a cargo hold. According to reports, she and her guardians were returning home to Amsterdam after participating in a dog show in Louisville, Kentucky. (Had she not been forced to participate in an overseas competition—one that glorifies breed standards and ruins dogs’ chances at being adopted from shelters—perhaps this incident would never have happened.) Gale was finally found on March 26—nearly four days after fleeing the cargo hold.

She’s been reunited with her handler—a thought that’s certainly heartwarming on its surface—but now Gale faces a long, dangerous flight home. As evidenced below, many dogs and other animals have died while being transported in an airplane cargo hold—an area designed to store luggage and other inanimate belongs, not living beings who require food, water, and comfort. We should all strive to be far better guardians than Gale’s—animals should never be forced to travel in a cargo hold, and dogs should never be made to participate in shows. Share this article with your friends and family, and remind them to keep their animal companions safe.

Originally posted on March 21, 2019:

Another dog died—terrified and alone—after being stored in a cargo hold, this time on an Air France–KLM flight traveling from Amsterdam to Los Angeles. The dog was reportedly found dead in the cargo hold (where animals have no access to replenished food or water) after the plane touched down at Los Angeles International Airport—10 hours and 45 minutes after leaving Amsterdam. Tragedies like this one are exactly why airlines must require that animals travel in the main cabin only. PETA urges Air France to join airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest in prohibiting companion animals from being confined to the cargo hold (where they endure noise, extreme temperatures, and sometimes inadequate pressurization) before yet another sensitive animal suffers and dies there.

Originally posted on January 10, 2019:

Last month, a 6-year-old French bulldog named Bruno died in a carrier during a flight from Queensland to New South Wales in Australia. According to the dog’s guardians—Kristina and Neil Maccabee—he was left in the carrier, on the tarmac, in the sun, without shade for 40 minutes before the couple boarded. But the airline reportedly claims that he was kept in the “appropriate baggage area” and is reportedly investigating the incident.

Just days after Bruno died, another dog was reportedly left in a cage, with no shade, on a hot tarmac during a 45-minute flight delay. Temperatures were in the 80s, which means that the tarmac itself was well above 100 degrees. The dog’s guardian, Lucy Shearer, said that she watched her canine companion—Frankie—from her seat window.

Airlines must put in place new procedures if they are going to continue to transport pets,”  Shearer wrote in a Change.org petition.

But although incidents like this are common, it’s we who need to prioritize our animal companions’ safety and well-being. Animal guardians must take responsibility—we cannot expect airline staff to do it for us. If possible, leave your animal companions at home in the care of a trusted sitter. Keep reading to find out why—and how to proceed if your animal companion must fly.

Originally posted on September 6, 2018:

LATAM Airlines lost a family’s canine companion named Logan. According to reports, he never boarded his intended flight to Paraguay out of John F. Kennedy International Airport because of a “ramp issue.” An airline employee allegedly took him home, but he escaped and has been missing since.

Originally posted on June 26, 2018:

A 2-year-old rescued cat named Bells escaped from her kennel while being transported to an airplane cargo area at Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Why was a cat being put in such a place to begin with?

Bells’ guardian searched for her companion for hours. Sadly, a call the following morning revealed that the cat had been found dead, allegedly underneath a conveyer belt. The airline released a statement saying that it’s conducting a thorough investigation, but as history has taught us, even the most in-depth review can’t guarantee that a tragedy like this will never happen again. This is why PETA is urging animal guardians to take responsibility for their companions’ safety. A cargo facility is no place for any animal—and certainly not for a cat, who can probably fit underneath the seat in a carrier. It’s up to each of us to prioritize our animal companions’ safety.

Originally posted on June 5, 2018:

According to reports, Alejandro—an 8-year-old Pomeranian—died Wednesday while being held in a Delta Air Lines cargo facility during a layover in Detroit. He was being flown from Phoenix to Newark, New Jersey, where his guardian—Michael Dellegrazie—was expecting to pick him up.

Alejandro is hardly the first animal companion to die in a cargo area while being transported by air. But his death—which occurred during a layover for a nondirect flight—makes it clear that while it’s dangerous enough to risk one flight, leaving an animal in a cargo facility amid multiple flights is a recipe for disaster.

Given the slew of heartbreaking incidents, including fatalities, that’ve occurred over the years, PETA is—once again—encouraging guardians to think twice before flying with their animal companions and never, ever to allow any living being to be put in a cargo hold. It’s up to you to prioritize animals’ safety, because it’s clear that airlines aren’t going to.

Originally posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2018:

On Saturday, Josh Schlaich showed up at the Delta cargo area of the Boise Airport in Idaho to pick up Ren, his new companion puppy. He was shocked when he saw the animal—who wasn’t Ren.

According to reports, Ren—who was meant to travel on Friday from Virginia to Minneapolis and then to Boise—had been flown to Detroit, where he spent the night before being sent to Las Vegas and then to Salt Lake City. According to Schlaich, he spent hours not knowing where the dog was. He told KTVB, “It’s a culmination of uncaring customer service and bad logistics.” He and Ren were united on Sunday night, after the pup finally touched down in Boise.

Not all animal-related airline incidents have such a happy ending.

Although Ren is now home and safe with his guardian, both were undoubtedly distressed by the ordeal. This mishap is just one of at least four animal-related airline incidents that have occurred within the last week.

On March 12, a dog died on a United Airlines flight after an employee allegedly insisted that a passenger place the animal in an overhead storage bin. According to one witness, despite the passenger’s attempts to refuse the request, the dog (a 10-month-old puppy) spent roughly three hours confined to the poorly ventilated overhead bin—and could be heard faintly barking at some points. When the plane landed, he was found dead inside his carrier.

The following day, the airline sent a Kansas-bound German shepherd named Irgo to Japan. According to The Daily Mail, upon arriving in Kansas City, his family received a Great Dane and “learned that Irgo had been put on a plane to Japan, where the Great Dane was supposed to go.”

A few days later, a United flight traveling from New Jersey to St. Louis was diverted to Akron, Ohio, after staff reportedly “realized that a dog had been loaded in cargo ‘by mistake’ and was supposed to be transported to Akron-Canton Airport.”

These four incidents are hardly the first of their kind. Just last month, a Spirit Airlines employee allegedly told a customer to flush her hamster down a toilet in order to board a flight, even though she had previously received the OK to bring the small rodent aboard. The customer—heartbreakingly—complied (an act that’s not only cruel but also illegal).

In August last year, Lulu—a 5-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel—died in the cargo hold on a United flight. The plane was delayed on the tarmac for two hours before takeoff. Lulu’s family believes that she died sometime during the delay.

Earlier last year, a rabbit named Simon died while being flown on a United flight through Chicago in the cargo section of a Boeing 767. Following his death, PETA wrote the airline’s President and CEO Oscar Munoz a letter urging the company to restrict companion animals from flying as checked baggage.

In 2013, after catching wind of Air Canada’s recent loss of Larry—a dog who was forced to fly in the cargo hold to his new home—we wrote the airline an urgent letter asking it to change its live-animal transit policy.

In 2011, a dog named J froze to death in the cargo hold during an 11-hour flight from Moscow to New York. J’s guardian said he was “heartbroken, devastated, [and] destroyed” to lose a member of the family.

In the same year, a cat named Jack died from injuries that he sustained while lost inside JFK Airport in New York. He had escaped from his carrier before he could be loaded into a plane’s cargo hold. After spending two months in the American Airlines baggage-claim area, Jack was finally found when he fell through the ceiling.

Months prior, a cat named Snickers died after being transported in an airplane’s cargo hold. Although his guardian, Heather, was assured that the area was climate-controlled—she wasn’t informed that the climate in the cargo hold was only controlled during flight. After the plane landed and Snickers was left in the hold for 50 minutes without any heat, Heather found the kitten cold and unresponsive. At the time, the temperature outside was just 7 degrees. She died as Heather rushed her to the vet.

In the same month, a dog named Nala, who was flying to Germany, broke free from her crate and escaped from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. She was missing for three days before she was found dead along Interstate 75 in Atlanta.

In 2010, seven puppies died after being shipped from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Chicago in the hold of a commercial airline.

All these tragedies share two commonalities: 1) They occurred because animals were traveling by air, and 2) each one could have been avoided.

Although flying might the fastest and least stressful way for humans to travel, it can be the opposite for animals.

No dog, cat, or any living being should have to endure the terror and trauma of being wedged among baggage in a loud, dark, strange place far from their guardians. This means refusing to transport your companion animals by air in the cargo area.

You must prioritize animals’ safety—it’s clear that airlines aren’t going to.

In many cases, it may be better to leave your animal companions at home in the care of a trusted sitter, such as a relative, close friend, coworker, or neighbor. If they must fly, research your airline’s animal policies before committing to travel plans and only do so if you can keep the animals with you at all times. Click the button below to learn more:

Learn More About Flying With Your Animal Companion

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind