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How Likely Are Pets to Die in the Cargo Hold?

How Likely Are Pets to Die in the Cargo Hold?
Ryan Boyd

A study conducted by the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation claims that the majority of injuries to pets being held in the cargo hold are self-inflicted from the animals themselves, and that a large statistical number of deaths were due to pre-existing conditions before the pets were placed in the hold.

For his part, the attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund said, “I think people should be skeptical when reading the numbers … They don’t necessarily reflect the airlines animal transport safety record.”

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View Comments (3)


  1. arcticflier

    February 15, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    The animals are causing self-harm in the cargo hold?

    How does that work?

  2. drvannostren

    February 16, 2018 at 2:26 am

    As a ground handler I can say that I’ve transported thousands of pets in the cargo hold, admittedly mostly on 737s, but of course on a wide variety of aircraft.

    I’ve SEEN one show up dead over the years, I’ve heard about < 10 more over that same time.

    What I will say, is they don't like it. Also, don't expect ME to "care" for your pet. I won't deliberately hurt or harm your animal, I'm not a monster, but I also don't feed your pet, I don't walk it, I don't let it out of it's cage, I don't comfort it. I've seen far too many animals in cages that are simply too small, I've seen pets make multiple connections and every time they are exposed to the ramp conditions they freak out a little, I've seen pets come off 10-12 hour flights having not eaten for those hours plus the hours they were checked in. None of this is good. It's cold, it's loud, it's hot, it's wet, it's unfamiliar, it's tight, there's nothing that they like about the experience. Some of the pets deal with it much better than others and barely make a sound, others are barking or bouncing off the walls of the cage non-stop as soon as they get into the bagroom or cargo warehouse.

    If you MUST travel with your pet, which I don't really advocate doing, but sedate them first. It really appears to be the best option. It keeps them calm, it makes the ride a lot more palatable. It also keeps ME safer and less at risk, because I've also seen a couple dogs/cats get out of their cages because they forced them open and didn't want to be in them. I get blamed, look like an idiot when it had nothing to do with me, the animal was just afraid.

    Would I worry if I left my pet in the cargo hold? Not really. But there's things you should do for it first, and the biggest thing I can advise it sedation.

  3. drvannostren

    February 16, 2018 at 9:15 pm


    They do anything they can think of (which isn’t much) to try and escape the cage they’re in and to try and get away from the noise and cold they’re being subjected to. More than a few times the plane has arrived and we’ve opened the door only to see the animal free in the hold because it broke free. I’ve seen kennels chewed through the side, cage doors broken open. I dunno that I’d totally call it SELF HARM like they’re not slitting their wrists, but self harming by ramming their heads into the cage door would probably count.

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