Harry_crate.jpgOur account of Harry the Dog’s cross-country trip on Pet Airlines generated a response from commenter LolaMarigolda. She said:

It is sad that people don’t take the time to really look at the airline incident reports so they can see what is really going on. For the most part, it appears that quite a few animals haven’t been acclimated to being in a crate and the vast majority of animal deaths are shown (by necropsies) to be caused by either undiagnosed heart/lung issues (dogs) or heart/kidney issues (cats). Certain brachial plectic breeds have a significantly higher instances of death; then again these same breeds overheat easily even at cooler temperatures.

It is also interesting that the author has read all of these incident reports and information on dogs traveling in cargo and still got basic info wrong. The cold weather embargo actually occurs if the weather is below 20 degrees; however, if the temps are less than 45, the airlines require an acclimation certificate/letter from the vet stating what the lowest temps and amount of time the animal may be exposed. For most healthy animals, short exposure (such as while waiting to be loaded) isn’t a problem.

I have shipped several hundred dogs over the course of the last 25 years (for dog shows, breeding purposes, and pups to new homes) and have never had a problem. Then again, I’ve never attempted to ship a sedated, sick, or non-crate acclimated animal.

Thank you for commenting, Lola. You make very excellent points. And the incident reports do show that according to the airlines some of the animals were medicated at time of death – which was not reported by the owners. They also show events like events like how a puppy was left on the baggage trolley, apparently by the driver who thought the puppy was cute and had it on the seat next to him. The baggage was loaded and then what happened is unclear but it seems like the puppy was never put on the plane. When the puppy was finally found it was “in distress” and rushed to a vet. Hard to tell what really happened from the incident report, but the puppy died.

Being a dog professional over the past 25 years, you’ve had no option but to fly your dogs cargo. And I am happy that you never had a negative experience. Several years ago I was on a flight to New York on the week leading up to The Westminister. I saw the flight’s captain come back personally and tell a passenger that “Josh” was safely onboard. He also told other passengers their dogs were safe. This is the sort of service most airlines should try to offer their passengers with a pet flying in cargo.

In the past, my Shepard mix flew coast to coast several times on a traditional airline without a problem. But this was over 15 years ago. Airports were a bit less hectic. Agents were plentiful, as were ground crew. I think we can all agree that travel has gotten a great deal more challenging since then.

Regarding the 45 degree issue you mention: The airline that seems to make the most effort at transporting animals is Northwest Airlines. Here’s their Priority Pet program info from their web site:

Priority Pet incorporates the following:

* Employee training at all locations.
* Dedicated personnel and facilities to speed connections at our Detroit, Memphis and Minneapolis/St. Paul hubs.
* Written confirmation provided to you before departure that your pet is safely onboard the aircraft.
* Transportation on all Northwest and Northwest Airlink aircraft equipped with heated and pressurized baggage compartments.

NWA is making an effort to reach out to pet owners, and I applaud them for this. The airlines that fly a nonstop to California from the Milwaukee area do not include NWA.

All the airlines I did call after reading their online info about pets in cargo told me that below 45 degrees it was the airline’s choice about putting a pet in cargo regardless of a vet low-temp tolerant okay. A few told me over the phone they would not board a pet in cargo if it was below 45 degrees regardless of vet approval.

I imagine you fly dogs that are prepared for the experience. That are crate trained and healthy. Harry is just my little wingman. He is crate trained, healthy, and loves cold weather. I know that chances are high that we could have flown cargo from Chicago and he would have made it to SF alive and well for the experience. All I could think of was the “what if?” If anything had happened to him, there wouldn’t be solace in the world. Especially because I had the option and ability to fly him in a manner that seemed even safer and more secure.


And Harry? Harry is really home! This morning, he raced into Barry for Pets to say hi to Gary Collings, one of his very favorite bi-peds.

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  • Nina

    I love the idea of an airline dedicated to the COMFORT of pets, especially if the cost is comparable to putting them in the cargo area. I couldn’t imagine putting the fate of my dogs in the hands of someone who may or may not like/care about their welfare. That Pet Airways caters so much to the needs of not only the dogs but also their owners means I would more likely trust them with my precious cargo. We’ve all seen the shows about how crappy baggage is treated. If that’s not a good indicator about how careless the airlines are with the possessions of passengers then I don’t know what is. I wouldn’t care if no animals were ever harmed in the cargo hold, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my little buddies through that kind of trauma. Like Nan, I care too much about their well-being to ever do that to them.

  • Eve Batey

    Perhaps dogs that are, as LolaMarigolda said, are crate trained and, uh, normal could be OK in Cargo but, can you guys imagine FRANNY in cargo? Magnolia might be better, but I dunno — and, Nina, same for Chomo and Opal. After what our guys went through before we had them, cargo might give them, like, flashbacks.

  • Nina

    Yeah I think our dogs would probably never get over it. Opal would probably arrive in a puke-covered crate. And let’s face it, a breeder probably has different standards than the rest of us. Their needs are monetarily driven while most loving pet owners just care about doing whatever they can to maintain the overall health and safety of their pets. I hope that LolaMarigolda will now at least offer her clients the option of flying their new additions on Pet Airways instead of just dumping them into the cargo hold. Imagine, you’re a tiny puppy and you’ve just been weened from your mom and someone 1) takes you away from her forever and 2) turns you over to strangers who put you in a crate for hours until you reach your new home. How horrifying!

  • Nannette Bisher

    Here’s a couple of other things about Pet Airways:
    1. At check-in the Ground Pet Attendant asked if Harry would need to be given any medication or eye drops on the flight.
    2. Pet Airways allowed Harry to take his sheepskin-like pad for his crate. They monitor your pet during the flight. A large bed would make it hard for them to see if a pawsenger had been ill or gone to the bathroom.
    3. Both at the boarding site in Chicago and at Harry’s arrival terminal in LA I saw uniformed Pet Airways Attendants walking the “clients.” One client per attendant. At both locations – smaller executive airports – there were clean grassy areas right outside the door.

    I know for many people flying their animals on a traditional airline may be the only solution. I hope Pet Airways thrives and expands to include many more cities and more travel days. I just keep seeing the little dachshund who was on Harry’s flight. Small, white muzzled and walked a bit stiffly – this was an older dog. NO WAY could this little dog be flown cargo. And the reunion of this dog and her owner in LA was so freakin sweet.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • driver

    Thanks for the wonderful information. I had no idea. Years ago, I saw the airlines destroy a guaranteed-for-life Samsonite bag of mine, and since that time I have categorically refused to let my animals near the airlines. I drove my animals from Tennessee to Arizona and it was a hell ride. The cat crawled into the underside of this weird bed frame in a Best Western in the middle of Texas and refused to come out for hours. Even though I was with her, the drive had traumatized her badly. I finally broke down and cried and out she came to see what I was upset about. I wish she had Pet Airways. All of us would have been a lot happier. I know now.

  • Nannette Bisher

    So know what you mean! I made a few long drives with my cat Watchcat.
    The Miami to LA drive was best remembered for how his constant MEOW changed tone – as we hit Louisiana it started to sound southern, more like MA’AM…

  • Eve Batey

    Oh my god, when my friend Eric and I moved here from Indiana, we drove a U-Haul with a cat in a crate sitting bitch. How about those awesome elevation changes, where we know to swallow, and a cat just meows and meows and meows? I remember how we kept snapping JUST SWALLOW at him. And he’d keep getting mad and knocking over his water bowl. IT WAS THE OPPOSITE OF AWESOME.

  • LolaMarigolda

    In the case of the puppy, it would seem that particular airline needs to discipline its employee(s). Those sorts of incidents are very rare. Most airlines make you sign/affirm that the animal has not been sedated and won’t accept one if it appears to have been. I’ve been in pet forums where the average pet owner thinks that is unreasonable; It is easier to dope the animal than to take the time to properly acclimate or train it.

    It has been my experience that most of the airlines will notify the passenger (either verbally or with a stub pulled from paperwork on the crate) when their animal has been boarded. On my last international flight, the flight attendant came by to tell me that she was about to go check on my dog and asked if I preferred her to have ice or water.

    Actually Nina, my standards are pretty rigorous and money isn’t why I’m active with my dogs. Small scale hobby breeders that compete and health test rarely break even, let alone make money. I’ve done more shipping to get myself and my dogs to various dog events than shipping pups. The typical pup isn’t going to be traumatized by a cargo flight. In my breed of choice, the “typical” dog has the “I’ve never met a stranger” mentality; pups tend to come out of the crate tails wagging, happy to lick you to death.

    After having the opportunity to see the holds of several different models of airliners, I’m of the opinion that if the airlines would produce a video showing how it all breaks down, including footage of the hold, most would find it isn’t as they had previously imagined. As to me using the service, it would be based on a buyer requesting it. I personally won’t be using it (going to shows/events) as they aren’t using any of our local airports. I don’t feel it would be the most appropriate way to transport pups that haven’t been through ALL of their vaccinations nor a bitch in heat being sent off to be bred. While the latter is becoming less common as more breeders are turning to AI, it still happens. Airlines only accept a limited number of animals per flight and per most airlines’ policies, they aren’t to be taking them out of their crates unless it is an emergency. It wouldn’t be in a young pup’s best interest to be on a flight with that many other animals and I doubt Pet Airways wants to deal with the sort of ruckus a bitch in heat would cause nor the additional liability issues it would raise should someone get the least bit careless.