In fact, Mashable says that United Airlines have the most animal deaths for the past two years; not good if you have a choice of airlines when transporting pets or animals that have been bred and are being shipped to customers. United have a Pet Safe protocol. Sadly it seems to be failing. This bad publicity follows the viral video of the man being dragged off a United flight. He has done a deal for compensation and I’d be surprised if he did not get at least $500k.
This information is being discussed because a giant rabbit called Simon died while ostensibly being transported by United from the UK to America. Subsequently it appears that Simon died while in transit at the airport waiting for a connected flight. According to the Sun website he died in his cage in a pen at the Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
However, this does not take away from United’s dire record of 9 animal deaths and 14 injuries for 2016.
Below is a list presented by Masable.com in descending order of deaths and injuries:
- United Airlines: 9 deaths, 14 injuries
- Delta Airlines: 5 deaths, 5 injuries
- American Airlines: 4 deaths, 1 injury
- Hawaiian Airlines: 3 deaths, 0 injuries
- Alaska Airlines: 2 deaths, 1 injury
- Skywest Airlines: 2 deaths, 1 injury
- ExpressJet: 1 death, 0 injuries
Clearly something very strange and wrong happened to Simon as he was fit when he started his journey and his breeder, Annette Edwards, said that she frequently ships her rabbits internationally by air without problems.
HSUS recommends that pet owners carefully consider the risk of air travel for their cat or dog when travelling in the hold.
“We strongly discourage having your pet travel by air in the cargo hold of a plane. It can be dangerous and stressful,” the organization states on its website.
There are some horror stories concerning pet air travel in the cargo hold. A cat called Jack escaped his carrier and spent 61 days wandering around JFK airport. Jack escaped his cage when it was stacked on another carrier. It fell off and broke open. Jack had to be euthanised when found because he was so malnourished and dehydrated.
Can customers trust airlines with their beloved cat or dog? I doubt it or at least there are uncertainties and I would not send my cat to travel in the hold of an aircraft unless there were pressing reasons to do so. In the US, reporting of incidents concerning pet air travel has been improved since Jan 2015.
Some purebred cats and dogs will be more vulnerable to the health risks of air travel in the hold because they are flat faced and have breathing issues. I am thinking of the popular pug and the contemporary Persian (see health).
The Huffington Post provides some advice on pet air travel which I summarise below:
- Avoid summertime flights. This avoids pets becoming overheated, perhaps dying of heatstroke while sitting in carriers on the tarmac. Some airlines will stop pet travel during hot weather. Alternatively, in summer, fly at night.
- Direct flights are safer. This means a shorter travel time and less possibility of health hazards occurring.
- Make sure your pet is fit enough to travel.
- PetTravel.com recommend keeping very young puppies and kittens at home. They say that their respiratory system is not fully developed making them vulnerable to breathing issues. Puppies and kittens should be 10-12 weeks old, after their first set of vaccinations.
- Another recommendation is to notify the aircrew that your cat or dog is onboard. It seems that aircrew are not always aware (are they ever aware?) that someone’s pet is in the hold. The objective is to ensure that the captain and his crew make sure that the hold is monitored properly for oxygen levels.
Many cat breeders routinely ship young cats to paying customers. When I stayed at A1 Savannahs they regular shipped out many young cats to the nearest airport via a 2 hour van drive. I looked wrong to me as there were too many things that could go wrong. The cats were very valuable.