7 Puppies Die After Flight in Cargo Hold

Locations in this article:  Chicago, IL Dallas, TX Detroit, MI Mexico City, Mexico

Puppy dogIn another example of the dangers of transporting pets in airplane cargo holds, seven puppies have died after being loaded onto an American Airlines flight out of Tulsa on Tuesday morning.

The puppies were part of a group of 14 puppies sent by an undisclosed shipper headed to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on American Airlines Flight 851. American says they are conducting an internal investigation on how the puppies died soon after they arrived in Chicago.

According to media reports, the puppies were all alive when they were unloaded from the plane. They were then taken from the plane’s cargo hold and put in American’s holding area at O’Hare to be placed on connecting flights.

American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said airline employees transporting the puppies became concerned when they noticed the dogs looked lethargic and tried to cool them. All 14 dogs were then transported to a Chicago veterinarian contracted by the airline, Fagan said.

Somewhere along the way seven of the 14 dogs had expired.

Learn more about transporting pets in our Pet Travel category.

Dog playing on the beachSome news media outlets have hypothesized that an hour-long delay in Tulsa might have been the cause of the puppies’ demise. Flight 851 was supposed to depart Tulsa at 6:30 a.m. but because of storms in Chicago the flight did not depart until 7:30 a.m.

During the hour delay, the forecasted temperature in Tulsa rose from 85 degrees to 87 degrees. Since temperatures in cargo holds and airport tarmacs are usually even hotter, the puppies could have been in conditions several degrees higher.

By loading the puppies, American Airlines might have also violated its own temperature policy for shipping pets. According to the American Airlines Website, the airline has established temperature restrictions “to ensure animals are not exposed to extreme heat or cold in the animal holding areas, terminal facilities, when moving the animals between terminal and aircraft or on an aircraft awaiting departure.”

More airline pet transportation controversies: Delta Loses Dog, Misleads Owners, Offers $200 Travel Vouchers as Compensation

The airline’s temperature restrictions prohibit the acceptance of pets when “current or forecasted temperatures are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit at any location on the itinerary.”

Boxer close-upTemperature restrictions are even more stringent for snub-nosed animals, which according to the airline are not accepted when the temperature is forecast to be 75 degrees or more at any location in the itinerary.

The breeds of the puppies are still unknown. However, a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released in July warned that short-faced dogs like pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs and American Staffordshire terriers are more likely to die in cargo holds.

The same DOT report that found that at least 122 dogs and 22 other animals died in airplane cargo holds over the past five years.

Check out the new program that guarantees your pet will go with you: New Branded Pet Program Guarantees Boarding for Pets.

The same report, however, has American Airlines in the middle of the pack as far as animal related incidents. According to Fagan, the airline transports more than 100,000 animals a year, but since 2005 only 33 animals have been injured, lost or killed while being transported.

Fagan says the airline is continuing to investigate the circumstances behind the demise of the dogs and that the airline has policies in place that would have returned the puppies to the gate if the temperature conditions did not meet their regulations.

Dog profile - Pet TravelStill some organizations are debating the safety of cargo hold transport for animals. On Tuesday, PETA issued a statement warning travelers that transporting animals in cargo holds could be deadly.

PETA suggested that travelers should never fly with their animals unless the animal could be flown in the cabin. According to the non-profit, cargo holds were susceptible to extreme temperatures and animals could escape and become lost inside the airplane or runway.

Most recently, Delta Air Lines stirred up similar cargo hold controversy, when Paco, a Mexican stray adopted by a Canadian couple vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, was lost in transit to Detroit from Mexico City.

By Adriana Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: Dallas Morning News, ABC News, Newson-6.com, AA.com (American Airlines), Dept. of Transportation, USA Today

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