Flying with dogs, our worst fears come true (with a happy ending)

Havoc after he was caught near the end of the runways. He's such a stable minded, kind dog that he jumped into the next crate like the perfect gentleman that he is.

Havoc after he was caught near the end of the runways. He's such a stable minded, kind dog that he jumped into the next crate like the perfect gentleman that he is.

Most of what we write about and contribute on our Facebook page is regarding bed bugs. However, we are first and foremost a K-9 company. Dogs are our passion. We entered pest control because of dogs. 

On Monday, March 12, our company nearly had a tragedy with a new dog we picked up from Skiplynn Kennels. Havoc, a 1-year–old Belgian Malinois was traveling with us from Toronto Canada to Vancouver Canada. You could read more about the story in the following newspaper articles: Sudbury Star & City News.

We understand accidents can happen and human error is a part of life. What we take issue with, and what we hope to address by making this story public is the need for changes in the way animals are handled when flying. Our incident is not the first time this same error has happened.

We did everything possible to ensure the safety of this dog. First, we drove 15 hours round trip so that the dog would have the shortest, non-stop direct flight. We drove into Canada so that a direct flight, with as little airport wait time as possible. The dog flew as cargo with a ticketed passenger. That allowed us to load him as late as possible and be there when he landed. 

We purchased a crate that was to airline standards and we zip-tied it more than is required, including zip-tying the front door. We confirmed with the flight attendant that the Captain of the plane knew a dog was on board (little did we know he wasn't yet on board) so that the Captain would maintain the cargo temperature.

All of these steps didn’t keep our dog safe.  We understand flying is a privilege, not a right. The changes we would like airlines to consider implementing are not outrageous demands. We don’t want to make it so difficult that they start refusing to ship animals. But airlines are better off NOT shipping animals than injuring or killing them.

We aren’t the type of folks that like to complain without offering some solutions. The following recommendations are submitted in the hopes that airlines will work harder to ensure the safety of animals they transport.

1: No live animals should be loaded onto a conveyer belt. If that isn’t feasible, we’d like to see that a human walks alongside the conveyer belt to assure control of it.

2: Reservations can be made and a ticket is provided for the live animal. Once that animal is loaded and secured in the cargo hold, the other half of the ticket is brought to the Captain for a quick signature and then given to the ticketed passenger. This confirms that the Captain of the plane is aware there are live animals in cargo and this notifies the owner on board that their pet is safely in the cargo hold and that the Captain is aware.

3: Loading and unloading of live animals should be priority over any baggage. Live animals should be the last on the plane and the first off the plane. There should be minimal waiting on tarmacs or in baggage holding areas.

These suggestions aren’t that difficult, time consuming or outrageous. I’d gladly pay more for a ticket for my pets so that we can have these changes. Other airlines that have outstanding safety records for transporting live animals already implement many of these policies.

Thankfully Havoc wasn't injured or killed. However it shouldn't take a dead dog for policies, that clearly need to be changed, to change. Air Canada's failure to ensure our dog's safety wasn't an anomaly. Reading through the comments on the press articles as well as our own Face Book Post we learned about very similar accidents. We hope Air Canada, as well as any other airline that transports live animals, will consider these suggestions.