Authorities have opened an investigation into the deaths of seven puppies aboard American Airlines flight 851 to Chicago, CNN reports. After taking off an hour late from Tulsa, Okla., the plane arrived at O’Hare International Airport at 8:54 a.m. with 14 dogs on board.
While American Airlines’ website says they will not accept pets “when the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees C) at any location on the itinerary,” KTLA News reports that, “As the plane sat on the tarmac in Tulsa, it was already 86 degrees before 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.”
This, of course, implies that the airline’s own safety procedures were not followed. Mary Frances Fagan, director of corporate communications for the airline, said that the cargo area of a plane is routinely kept between 50 and 70 degrees.
The Chicago Tribune reports the puppies, “which were sent by an unidentified commercial dog-breeding operation in Oklahoma, were to make connections at O’Hare to flights that would take them to pet stores in other states.”
Baggage handlers became concerned when the puppies looked “lethargic” when removing them from the plane. “People began trying to cool them off,” Fagan said. Five puppies died at the airport; two more at a veterinarian’s office.
The shipment of puppies contained a variety of breeds, she continued, and cause of death will remain undetermined until results from the necropsies are available sometime next week.
Investigators are looking into possibilities that include heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning and pre-existing health conditions.
Although each airline has its own transportation rules regarding animals, carriers must still follow the federal regulations outlined in the Animal Welfare Act. “The regulations include keeping cargo areas heated or cooled as necessary to maintain a temperature and humidity that ensures the well-being of the animals. The cargo areas also must be pressurized above 8,000 feet,” reports the Chicago Tribune.
According to KTLA News, in 2009 Continental Airlines came in first for animal deaths during transport, reporting 40 deaths to the government. American Airlines came in second with 28. The top five airline carrier deaths are rounded out by Delta with 17 deaths; Alaska with 16; and United Airlines with 13.
To help ensure your dog’s safety during travel, follow these simple guidelines:
Have your dog examined by your veterinarian to make sure he’s healthy enough for travel. Many airlines require a health certificate anyway.
Avoid booking your flights during the coldest months of winter.
If you’re not traveling personally with your dog, arrange for someone to be at the airport to greet the plane. That way your dog doesn’t have to wait in a crate.
Avoid flying during peak days and hours; airline staffers can be more attentive when business isn’t as hectic.
Arrive at the airport early to avoid last minute mishaps, confusion or panic. Dogs can sense when parents are upset.
Make sure your dog is wearing up-to-date identification tags.
Keep a leash handy so you can walk your dog as often as you need to. That way he can relax, exercise, relieve himself and doesn’t feel cramped up in a kennel.
Make it a point to keep your dog mellow and stress-free.
PHOTO: KTLA News