Tuesday, October 2, 2012


It used to be that live animals were air transported in the cargo hull with dry ice, which sublimated to carbon dioxide that would kill the animal being transported in the same space. Finally, the airlines were forced to recognize that danger. This has reduced the death incidences as a result.

But the risks of transporting live animals in the cargo space are varied and remain high. The highest risk period is when the plane is on the ground, before take off and after landing. The temperature control is usually turned off during those times, especially if there is a delay. Heat in the the sealed cargo area can quickly spike up to "cooking"  temperatures, and if the delay is 10 or more minutes, the animal will literally cook - and die from heatstroke. Click here to read about the tragic death of Bea, the Golden Retriever who died in flight  between New York and San Francisco on United Airlines about 2 weeks ago.

Model Maggie Rizer With "Bea" Before Her Fatal Flight On United Airlines

What can we do to lower the risks? A lot depends on the airline personnel that does the loading. I usually arrive as late as possible to check-in the animal. This usually ensures the container will not get shoved in the back or have more and more other cargo piled on top of it. Often I hover around and be a nuisance, and ask for the crate to be set in the front near the cargo door. I use a crate larger than required, and this at least guarantees more air space for the animal.

I call the cargo station at the connecting or plane change location and bother them, until someone goes and check on the animal for me. It works, but you have to be thick skinned, persistent, use a lot of communication skills, switching back and forth between ego stroking and subtle legal threats.

On overseas flight, I insist on a breed experienced passenger escort. I reserve the right to refuse shipment if the prospective owner will not make an effort in this regard. I have no faith in pet services - the ones that are touted to be the best, are good at only what they do a lot, which is marketing themselves. None of them are detail oriented, hands-on experienced transporters of live animals, and they are typically not familiar with the many pitfalls to which the animal is exposed while on the ground, waiting, waiting, waiting, or when stuck in customs.

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