This recent post over at Petopia about the tragic death of a young kitten who was being transported from Utah to Connecticut really made me sad. And then it made me angry.
Here is the gist of things:
A family purchased a hairless Sphynx from a breeder. On January 22, the breeder put the 11 week old kitten on a Delta flight from Utah to Connecticut. The plane landed in 7 degree weather, sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour, and, sadly, the cat died.
This was totally preventable. TOTALLY.
Animal welfare regulations recommend pets stay within the 45 to 85 degree range at all points during travel.
To get around this and try to shift the responsibility onto someone else, airlines will sometimes make an exception if a person has a “statement of acclimation” from a veterinarian saying the pet has been accustomed to wider variations in temperature and can tolerate lower temperatures. Even with this,
Federal regulations specify that dogs and cats must not be exposed to ambient temperatures that fall below 45 F for more than four consecutive hours while in animal holding areas of airport terminals. The regulations also limit exposure to temperatures lower than 45 F to 45 minutes while transferring the animal between the aircraft and the animal holding area.
So according to federal regulations, any pet, even a cold- acclimated 75 pound sled dog from Alaska, should not be on a tarmac at temperatures lower than 45 degrees for over 45 minutes. This was a tiny hairless kitten in 7 degree temperatures for almost an hour. Of course this tragic event happened.
There have been so many times a person comes in with a puppy they want to ship to a cold climate, waving a health certificate in front of me and insisting I sign off on the airline’s dictated temperature. “You have to say that this 8 week old puppy is acclimated to 35 degrees!” they yell. “He’s flying tomorrow!”
Remember that we live in San Diego, right?
I get a good number of livid clients by refusing to sign off on that sort of thing, but at the end of the day, my job isn’t to make life easier for breeders who want to take a risk doing unsafe things and just hoping it will turn out OK, which is exactly what this breeder in Utah did. They took a gamble and lost.
They put this juvenile hairless kitten on a plane scheduled to land in New England, in January, at 8 at night. My job is to inform such a person exactly why I can’t sign off on the statement of acclimation, because no, the pet is not ready for that. And this is the result.
I know it’s a pain to send pets on planes, and it’s expensive and a hassle and everyone hates dealing with it. But at the end of the day, putting a pet on a plane is a risky proposition, and the airlines are covering themselves with their restrictions because pets do die all too often without them. Cargo latches get stuck. Things happen. And pets pay the price.
What should have happened is this:
Breeder: I’m so sorry, I know you are very excited but I can’t safely ship this pet to you in this weather. His little body can’t handle a cold hour on a Connecticut tarmac if there’s any problems. Can we hold off until we get a break in the weather so he isn’t put in danger?
How could any reasonable person say no?