by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:
WASHINGTON - An investigation by Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane has found dozens of pets have died in the cargo holds of U.S. commercial airplanes in the past year and a half, and dozens more have been hurt, including several en route to or departing from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Kendra Hays told MacFarlane her 6-year-old Great Dane, Tucker, had a custom-made kennel and a clean bill of health from the vet before takeoff.
When Tucker touched down in Seattle, he was moments away from dying of heat stroke, covered in blood and his own saliva.
"It was such an ordeal. He never wagged his tail. He never made another sound. He was just in so much agony," Hays said.
Every airline MacFarlane contacted said they have a policy in place to protect animals that travel on their planes. But he found out incidents like Hays' are happening more often than one might think. And some of the cases are ugly.
Reports obtained by MacFarlane said in 2012, 29 animals died traveling in the cargo holds on U.S. commercial airplanes.
Twenty-six more were injured.
In one case, a 1-year-old Yorkshire terrier on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Nashville was found dead, likely suffering seizures, hypoglycemia and hyperthermia.
A pit bull en route from Charlotte to Atlanta mauled himself, biting through the crate and causing bruising to his face, torn nails and missing teeth.
In a case of a dog en route to Orlando, it was killed when it escaped onto the runway.
Humane Society investigators told MacFarlane many of the animals are injured by self-inflicted wounds from panic attacks.
"When they are
flying, there is no relief until they land, and that might be hours after that animal experiences that stress," said K.C. Theisen from the Humane Society of the United States.
Airlines do have safety policies. American Airlines, for example, asks for health certificates from pet owners and checks the comfort of the kennel.
MacFarlane was also told the U.S. Transportation Department is proposing stricter rules requiring airlines produce more detailed reports of the safety of pets on their planes.
The Humane Society likes the new rules, though it's unclear if those rules would have saved dogs like Tucker.