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Tag: air travel

LAX dogs provide different kind of security

pups

From an Irish wolfhound named Finn to a Rottweiler named Maggie Mae, 29 dogs of various breeds are providing a different kind of security for travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.

The dogs have been comforting frazzled travelers for a year now, through a program called PUP, or Pets Unstressing Passengers.

finnFinn started last November, the day after a gunman opened fire at Terminal 3 and left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead, according to the Los Angeles Times

“I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting,” owner Brian Valente said in an airport statement. “As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanors change.”

The one-year anniversary of the program was marked yesterday at a meeting of the L.A. Board  of Airport Commissioners.

The dogs all wear bright red vests, and mingle with passengers in post-security-screening areas. The program is aimed at reducing the anxiety of travelers by letting them pet and play with the dogs.

The dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, a national organization that supports pets that visit places such as hospitals, nursing homes and other special needs centers.

To see more of the dogs, click here.

(Photos: Los Angeles World Airports)

Delta Air Lines stops flying bulldogs

Your bulldog is no longer welcome on Delta Air Lines, and it’s for their own good.

As we reported last summer, short-snouted dogs run a far higher risk of death when it comes to air travel, with bulldogs heading the list of cargo hold fatalities, according to federal government statistics.

Bulldogs, pugs and other snub-nosed breeds for whom its harder to take in oxygen accounted for about half of the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, the data showed.

Since then two air lines have stop accepting bulldogs as passengers, most recently Delta, which based on its review of animal incidents last year, has opted to no longer carry American, English and French bulldogs.

Of the 16 pets that died on Delta flights in 2010, six were bulldogs.

Animal advocates are praising the decision, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“We’re pleased that Delta is being attentive and responsive to the particular animal welfare concerns with bulldogs,” said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of the Humane Society of the United States. Shipping pets in cargo holds “really should only be a last resort, when absolutely necessary,” he said.

Other major carriers have restrictions on bulldogs and some other breeds, or decline to carry any pets in their cargo holds. AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines only accept pets that fit in under-seat carriers. American Airlines stopped carrying snub-nosed dogs and cats last November.

Delta had already restricted a wide range of snub-nosed breeds from flying in hot weather, including pit bulls, pugs and Persian cats.

U.S. Department of Transportation data shows that 122 dogs died on airlines from May 2005 to May 2010. Of those, 25 were English bulldogs and six were French bulldogs.

The first and last flight of Snickers the cat

I feel bad for what happened to Snickers the cat. But to be brutally honest, I’m having a hard time working up much sympathy for her owner.

Snickers died last week, shortly after arrival at the Hartford airport aboard Delta Flight 738.

Airline officials had promised Heather Lombardi, who had purchased the cat from a breeder in Utah and was having her delivered, that the cargo hold the cat would travel in was climate controlled.

If you can’t guess what happened next, here’s some additional information:

Snickers was 11 weeks old.

Snickers was a Sphynx, or hairless cat.

It is winter, and a particularly cold one.

Once a plane lands, the cargo area is depressurized, and that climate control stuff doesn’t apply anymore.

Lombardi sent out an email blast to tell the world about “the worst tragedy I have ever personally experienced” — not to gain pity, or money, or, we’d hope, bolster her odds in a lawsuit. Instead, she says, she wanted to inform the world of the dangers of shipping a cat, by air, in winter.

With her two children, Lombardi arrived at the airport and was told to wait in the baggage area. Fifty minutes passed after the flight landed, the delay in unloading baggage being caused at least partly by a cargo hold latch that was stuck, she was told.

“I wasn’t incredibly alarmed … I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn’t outdoors,” wrote Lombardi, who paid $290 to transport Snickers. Outdoors, it was 7 degrees.

Upon being handed the crate, Lombardi opened it and pulled Snickers out:

“The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive. I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up. She couldn’t lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me — please. We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp …”

Ten minutes after handing the apparently lifeless cat to the vet, Lombardi was informed that Snickers was indeed dead.

“Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated — I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life.”

Delta told her it is investigating, but, she said, “the bottom line is that they can’t bring her back to me or my family, there is nothing they can say or do to make this whole. We don’t want a new kitten; we fell in love with HER. She was our new child & there is nothing that can be done to bring her home to us. Snickers lost her life unnecessarily …  Value life everyone, I have just experienced something I pray no one else has too. Don’t let Snickers lost life be in vain, I pray you guys read this & maybe another animals life won’t be lost to the cold & lonely Delta Cargo holds.”

Reading over her summary of events, what stuns me most is that a customer would even consider having an 11-week-old hairless cat transported by air in the dead of winter. That the breeder would permit it is surprising as well. That Delta signed off on it is equally shocking.

So, much as we regret Snickers’ passing, we, unlike Lombardi, wouldn’t aim our anger solely at Delta. There appear to be plenty of humans to share the blame, including the one who — though her subsequent warning not to ship animals when it’s below 30 degrees is valid — probably should have done a little more research and used a little more common sense before having her new hairless cat placed on a plane.

And we have to wonder a little bit, too — coldhearted as it may be at her time of clearly anguishing loss — why, any allergies aside, someone would opt for a pricey, high-maintenance novelty pet from the other side of the country when hundreds of cats are in the Hartford area’s animal shelters, waiting for homes.

Heather Lombardi responds: 

“… I first wanted to thank you for bringing attention to what happened to Snickers. Knowledge is power & even if you don’t agree with my actions & poor decision, not everyone knows or understands the risks of placing your pets in a climate controlled cargo hold. I myself was guilty of that. I do not place blame solely on Delta, my lack of knowledge & belief that travel was safe for animals in this weather was the obvious reason she was on the flight. It’s why I decided to share her story. She died due to my lack of knowledge & an obvious service failure on Delta’s behalf. I can’t control Delta, their practices or policies, what I can control is how I handle the situation. I choose to raise awareness, and I thank you for helping with that.”

When dogs fly: More deaths in cargo

The deaths of seven puppies flying in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet have added to the growing concerns about pets and air travel.

A shipper last week checked 14 puppies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a flight to Chicago, according to SmartTravel.com. Despite the airline’s policy against carrying pets when outside temperatures are expected to exceed 85 degrees, the puppies were in the cargo hold as temperatures on the tarmac rose to 87 degrees by the time the delayed flight departed.

When the flight arrived in Chicago, the puppies were lethargic and in visible distress. They were taken to a vet’s office, but five died initially and two others died later, according to the Associated Press

The airline declined to identify the shipper, or the breed of the puppies. Animals traveling as cargo on American must be at least eight weeks old, and the airline doesn’t allow dogs or cats that have been sedated.

An airline spokesperson said cargo holds carrying animals are routinely kept between 50 and 70 degrees.

But experts — and statistics – say we shouldn’t count on that.

The deaths come a month after the U.S. Department of Transportation warned that short-snouted dogs such as pugs and bulldogs accounted for about half of the 122 dogs that died during U.S. flights in the last five years.

Add in the tales of dogs getting lost at airports and the best advice is to, whenever possible, avoid shipping a pet as air cargo. There are other alternatives — from using Pet Airways, where pets ride in crates in the cabin, to driving, as Ed Perkins of SmartTravel.com notes in a recent column.

The ASPCA recommends that owners avoid shipping pets in the cargo hold, and offers these tips for those who can’t.

Short snouts and long flights don’t mix

Short-snouted dogs appear to run a far higher risk of death when it comes to air travel, according to federal government statistics released last week.

Bulldogs, pugs, and other short-of-snout breeds accounted for about half of the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, the data shows.

Overall, 122 dog deaths — 108 of them purebreds — were reported between May 2005, when U.S. airlines were required to start disclosing them, and May 2010, the Transportation Department says.

All the dogs died while being shipped as cargo, as opposed to flying in the cabin.

English bulldogs accounted for the highest number, with 25 deaths. Second highest were pugs, 11 of which died. Seven golden retrievers, six French bulldogs and four American Staffordshire terriers died while flying as cargo in that period. And boxers, cockapoos, Pekingese and Pomeranians accounted for two deaths each.

You can see the full list here.

The Department of Transportation says dog owners should consult with veterinarians before putting their dogs on planes. It believes that the deaths represent a tiny percentage of the pets shipped on airlines.

Short-nose breeds — known as “brachycephalic” — in addition to being less tolerant of heat, have a skull formation that affects their airways, Dan Bandy, chairman of the Bulldog Club of America’s health committee, told the Associated Press.

“The way all dogs cool themselves is basically through respiration, either just panting or the action of breathing in or out, is a method of heat exchange for them,” Bandy said. “A dog that has a long snout or a long muzzle has more surface area within its nasal cavity for that heat exchange to take place. So breeds like labradors or collies or those types of dogs with the long muzzles have a more efficient cooling system.”

Bandy said that in addition to trying to cool themselves, dogs may also pant excessively in the cargo hold because of stress or excitement. But he believes dogs shouldn’t be given tranquilizers before flying because that makes them less able to manage their own cooling process. In addition, airlines generally do not want pets tranquilized, he added.

In all, 144 pet deaths were reported by airlines over the past five years, along with 55 injuries and 33 lost pets.

Pet Airways adds service to Baltimore

 Pet Airways — the animal-only airline we told you about last month — has added Baltimore to the list of cities it will serve.

The flights, which will start in July, will travel to Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and New York.

Pets will fly in kennel crates in the main cabin of the aircraft, watched over by a flight attendant, and tickets will start at $149 each way.

For a list of the airports served, click here.

(Photos: Petairways.com)

Coffee, tea or Milkbone?

A Florida company has announced plans to start the nation’s first pets-only airline, allowing dogs and cats to travel in the cabin of its commuter planes.

Pet Airways, of Delray Beach, said Thursday it will begin operating weekly flights July 14 between New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles.

The airline will use commuter planes operated by Suburban Airlines and the average fare will be about $250 each way, said Alysa Binder, founder and executive vice president.

There are tentative plans to expand to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and other major cities by the end of the year, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The start-up of Pet Airways comes as major commercial airlines have increased their pet travel fees and tightened restrictions to discourage pets flying in cabins. Pets flying Pet Airways will not travel in the cargo hold.

“For us, it’s all about the safety and the comfort of the pets,” Binder said.

Pet Airways “pawsengers” – as Binder calls them – will fly in a 19-seat turbo-prop passenger plane, the Beech 1900. The seats will be removed and planes will be fully-lit and climate-controlled. The airline will have pet check-in lounges and a Web site where customers can book reservations and track their pet’s travel progress.

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