Google+ PetsVentura® : On Aug, 28th, on a flight from Miami to San Francisco, United airlines killed my 2.5 year old Mastiff, BamBam

On Aug, 28th, on a flight from Miami to San Francisco, United airlines killed my 2.5 year old Mastiff, BamBam

The following sad story was publish on Facebook:

On Aug, 28th, '12, on a flight from Miami to San Francisco, United airlines killed my 2.5 year old Mastiff, BamBam. United’s “Pet Safe” program guarantees that your pet will be in an acclimated, a/c equipped cargo facility or Pet Safe van to and from the plane. All other airlines require a Certificate of Acclimation to fly, only United does not because of Pet Safe. On the day we flew, no other airline would have allowed us to fly because of the extreme temperatures in Miami AND in Houston, only United because of their program and their guarantee that pets remain in an air conditioned environment at all times. Cargo facilities, vans to and from the plane, the cargo hold. They broke every promise they made to us.

We had a 3+ hour layover in Houston. Again, we could have flown an airline with a direct flight, but none of them offer the security, or guarantee of constant a/c that United offers. This is of paramount importance for a giant breed such as a Neapolitan Mastiff. After being seated in Houston for the San Francisco leg of our journey, watching out the window for the Pet Safe van, BamBam arrived on an metal closed sided luggage cart, not a van, looking hotter than we had ever seen him. My boy who was used to Miami temperatures. It was 97 in Houston on the tarmac that day. Outraged at the lack of a van and how hot he looked, but assuming he would cool down once inside the plane, and the airplane doors already locked, we watched them load him and we took off to San Francisco. Never, not once did it occur to me that he had been in that condition for close to four hours, since we landed in Houston.

BamBam was dead on arrival. My beautiful baby boy. We were told he must be sent back to Houston for an autopsy, and so began four dreadful weeks of corporate America denying responsibility, non information, ridiculous necropsy interpretations and insulting offers. Eventually United offered us a return of his flight costs, the cost of his necropsy/cremation and travel vouchers.

We have since found out from United employees that at no time in Houston was BamBam ever in a/c. He was removed from the plane, set under the wing on the tarmac until a luggage cart came for him. He was then transferred to a “USDA approved holding area with a cross breeze from open windows and fans” instead of the cargo area with a/c as promised. We have now been told in layovers of under 4 hours, NO animal is taken into the cargo area, only the “holding area.” Something we had never been told or accepted. No van would have been unacceptable, but no cargo area at the hight of summer? Outrageous. After 2+ hours he was put back onto a luggage cart and kept outside for another 40 minutes to travel 4 gates...until we saw him.

He never had a chance. We have now learned that every 9 days a pet dies on a commercial airline. Yet the airline industry holds all the cards. Almost zero regulation, accountability or informing of the public of the actual dangers of airline flight, even though his one way ticket was double my round trip. The airline and law consider him “luggage” and my recourse has been exactly that. In fact, only “pet” deaths are reported, not the hundreds of deaths of commercial animals, breeding pets, livestock, exotics, primates, etc. How can the public not be informed of this?

Unless you are prepared to take the exact same chance with your pet as with your bag, do not fly your pet on a commercial airline. The last words to me beautiful baby boy as I loaded him in the crate at the United cargo terminal, were,...

“Be a good boy, I’ll be back for you, I promise.” For 4 hours in a heat wave, as his body was closing down, as United’s “trained” personnel walked by and ignored his distress, is this what went through his mind? If he was just a good boy I’d be back for him.

United broke every single promise they made to us. They killed my baby boy and tried to buy me off with travel vouchers and a complete denial of any responsibility on their part.

PetsVentura comments and advices for all travelers with their pets:

This issue of animal transportation is not an easy one, and for sure not economic at all. The organization that sets the standard is IATA  ( and you can read on their website their section on LIVE ANIMALS REGULATION (LAR) Every airline must follow these regulations, but they also have their own policies, and airplane fleet, which differ from one company to another.  In addition, each country has their own rules and standards regarding their concerns on handling travel with animals.  

All airlines follow the same kind of type, size and setup of travel kennels -- see paragraph “Do you have a suitable container for your pet?” However, some airlines are stricter than others are in terms of size and setup.

Weather conditions – Temperature restrictions have been established by some airlines to ensure animals are not exposed to extreme heat or cold in the animal holding areas, terminal facilities, when moving the animals between terminal and aircraft, or on an aircraft awaiting departure. Pets will not be accepted by some airlines when the current or forecasted temperature at the arrival or departure airport is above 84F (29C) at either location on the itinerary (75 degrees for snub-nosed dogs and snub-nosed cats).

Medical condition – Each country has its own entry and exit rules regarding medical condition of a traveling animal. Travel documents must meet these unique requirements. 

Cost of travel – When it comes to travelling by air, there are three common ways: in-cabin, as checked luggage, or as manifest cargo. Each airline has its own rules on which animal can use any of these options, and once again, it is not so simple. It depends on the route, or if the airplane is too small to accommodate big dogs, or it is not suitable for carrying animals in certain conditions. Some countries will enforce using cargo flights (i.e. Australia, New Zealand and a few others). Some countries require have medical and importation requirements (i.e. the process of entry to Australia can take 5-6 and the cost is not cheap).  

Each country, airport and airline have an edition set of fees, which obviously differ greatly,. i.e. When you fly a cat from England to Argentina by British Airways, you will pay for a ticket in England and at the EZE airport; their office will charge you an extra processing fee to receive your animal from them.  You might ask why should you pay extra after all you paid for the ticket in London, right? On top of this, you have to pay the government agriculture office fees, customs, etc. In case of flying a pet in cabin or as access luggage, the process is relatively simple and economic. When using cargo flight the process is very different and very costly. In some countries, the passenger can handle the entire process of buying tickets, pay taxes and receive the animal. Nevertheless, in some other case the airline, airport or the country will enforce dealing ONLY with a custom broker or pet shipper who is a member of IPATA ( Should you need a broker, there will be an extra layer of cost.   

Until this point, I have tried to explain--while simplifying-- the complicity of basic rules and conditions involved in shipping an animal by air.

My experience working in preparing and shipping animals for the last 30 years bring some addition recommendations:

  • Have an extra medical examination by a veterinarian to make sure your animal is healthy to fly. The common physical examination to obtain the International Health Certificate is very superficial   
  • Make sure that your pet can handle the emotional stress of being in a kennel for so many hours (sometimes a pet can spend over 24 hours locked in with no possibility of getting out even to relieve himself or have a meal)
  • I recommend scheduling a direct flight when possible no matter the cost!!! If you have layovers for 2-4 hours and change flights, I will recommend to you if possible taking a break at that airport and waiting for the next day flight. Again, this not always possible but if we take animal into consideration, it is highly recommended.
  • NEVER, NEVER fly under extreme weather conditions (too hot or too cold). 
  • Never fly during holidays, weekends
  • Kennels – They rules of the hardware are clear as set by IATA (heavy plastic, wood or metal, no wheels). I cannot recommend one brand over the other. Make sure you read IATA and airline guidelines very carefully. 
  • Preparing your pet to accept the kennel in which they will travel is very important. Teach your pet get used to the kennel weeks or months in advance before traveling
  •  I recommend my clients to get a larger kennel (above the minimum requirements) to assure a comfortable area to lie down, turn around and move (i.e. if your pet requires a kennel size 500, I would suggest to have the next size up!!). Obviously the cost of a larger size is higher and the cost of ticket will be higher as well, but if you care for the well-being of your pet this will make a huge different in the quality of an already stressful journey. 
  • Cost- If you cannot afford it, do not put your pet at risk, just as you would not do it with young children. 
  • Airlines and airports – Some are better than others! Some of the best airlines to fly with animals are British Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, KLM Airlines, Air France, LAN Airlines, and few more. Some airports set special high quality areas for animals such as Frankfurt Airport, London International Airport and a few others. Get educated about the facilities where you pet might have a layover.

To conclude this short note, I would ask each pet lover to make their pet their top priority when they travel. Their life depends on your smart decisions. Think and act on their best interest. Educate yourself, read the small print of any related travel contracts, weather conditions, medical conditions, type of airplane and airport your pet will pass through, make sure your pet’s mental state is fit for the flight and all the pre and post flight. 

Recommendation from PetsVentura to our clients: There are many companies, travel providers, and each one of us as a pet owner (moms and dads) has an obligation to choose the best and most trusted travel providers. 

 If your suspect your pet has any issue before or during the flight – YES, handle additional cost or inconvenience by cancelling or changing your flight arrangements. The life of your pets are in your hands!!!

For your information, please find below an up-to date Airline Animal Incident Report:

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