Alert to Pet Owners:

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2001

Traveling from Phoenix to Juneau by air last month, I proceeded to baggage claim to pick up my little dog in Seattle to exercise her during the two-and-a-half hour layover. They informed me she was dead.

Chica was a healthy, 5-year-old, purebred Boston Terrier, and a "veteran" air traveler. The necropsy showed she died of a heat stroke. The recorded temperature that afternoon at the Phoenix airport was 109 degrees. My last words to the agent at the check-in were "Please do not put her out in that heat."

The agent advised me they did not load the pets until 15 minutes before departure. But the plane was about 15 minutes late in take-off. Obviously, enclosed in a kennel with no ventilation in the hold at those temperatures - probably at least ten degrees hotter - for one half hour would be too much for her.

In checking with the FAA, I was informed with regret that "Pets are considered baggage and there are no regulations." Apparently, however, there are restrictions governed by the USDA, but to date their office has not returned my calls.

Along with a certified health certificate from a veterinarian, there is a pet check record the owner is required to fill out by the airlines. Generally, it covers information and instructions as to feeding and watering in case of unexpected delay. (I had noted there was a small bottle of water along with the cup attached to the door inside the kennel). On the back of this form is an "Acceptance Guidelines" list to be checked off (yes or no) by an airline representative. One item on the list reads, "Have all station embargoes been checked for temperature restrictions?" None of the items listed had been checked, one way or the other. Ironically, in another area of the form it states, "If the animal is traveling in a cold weather destination, the veterinarian must certify that the animal is acclimated to temperatures below 50 degrees."

I believe the airlines, as well as travel agents, when making reservations this time of year to or from hot climates, should advise their clients of the danger to pets. Veterinarians issuing health certificates should help us to be more wary. And, in retrospect, I wish I had asked for a veterinarian at Sea-Tac baggage claim - could she have been revived?

Finally, while I am still devastated over the loss of my little Chica, I must say the airline staff at Sea-Tac was most courteous, kind and sympathetic, and sent flowers with condolences to my home.

And I hope this letter will help others to avoid such a tragedy.

C. Ann Mann

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