I strongly urge all my fans to read this post, even if news of animal trauma makes you feel ill. This is not just another heart breaking pet story that will leave you feeling helpless. Snicker’s story should enrage and impel you to spread the word and help other pets.
This story also has a personal aspect. I was shipped via Delta’s cargo hold to my people in winter! My people were assured I would fly comfortably in a climate controlled environment. My mom is a retired vet tech and my people consider themselves very knowledgeable regarding animal safety, but they were shocked to learn how Snickers died, and how Delta dealt with the incident. Snickers was a beautiful 16 wk old Sphynx kitten that was shipped to Heather Lombardi from Salt Lake City International Airport to Bradley International Airport in Hartford County, Connecticut. Snickers’ breeder had been shipping her kittens with Delta for 10 yrs without any problems.
Delta claims to ship pets comfortably in a climate controlled environment for $289.94. You can even pay an extra $70 to ensure your pet is extracted from the plane quickly (which Heather did) There are also weather safety precautions that prevent pets being flown if the temperature in either the arrival or departure city is below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here is what happened upon Snicker’s arrival, in Heather’s own words:
“We arrived at the airport at 8:15pm, camera & 2 kids in hand to pick up our long awaited new arrival. We immediately went to baggage claim where we would pick her up from her long flight from Utah. When we arrived, we were told to go sit by the conveyors for luggage & that as soon as the plane was unloaded, they would bring our new family member out to us.
We waited & waited & at 8:50 I went to the baggage claim & asked for an update. I told the woman that the kitten was a Sphynx & had no hair & that I was beginning to worry since it was only 7 degrees outside. I was told the flight had arrived on time (8:40pm), but to sit back down, that the cargo hold latch was stuck, but they were doing all they could & would bring her out as soon as they could.I wasn't incredibly alarmed, After all, I paid $290 for her to be in a climate controlled cargo area. I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn't outdoors.
At 9:30pm, they brought the carrier out to me & the woman who handed the carrier to me told me I should take her out & that the carrier was very cold. She removed the zip zip ties & I took the carrier to the floor & opened the door. The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive.
I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up.She couldn't lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me -- please.
We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp as we frantically drove to the vet. When we arrived, I literally ran in, and gave her to the nurse who whisked her into the back. After 10 minutes, a vet came out & told me that she that she was "DOA" and that there was nothing they could have done to save her. There was nothing I could have done to save her either.
The vet then explained to me that once a plane lands, the cargo compartment depressurizes & there is no longer climate control. She told me that she didn't stand a chance in this freezing weather sitting in the Delta Cargo hold for almost 50 minutes.
I spent the rest of the night last night crying & more or less having a nervous breakdown. She died cold, lonely & scared. Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated -- I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life." After speaking with Heather on Sphynxlair, I was horrified to learn how callously she was being treated by Delta since this incident. The first insult seems to be that pet deaths are dealt with by the baggage claims department.
Heather permitted me to read ALL her correspondence with the luggage claims department and I was shocked by their apathetic response. Even though I read a quote from a Delta rep. in a newspaper article stating how empathetic they were to Snickers’ owners, this was not apparent in Delta’s letters to Heather!
To make matters worse, an airline employee who wishes to stay anonymous, contacted Heather with some startling information. They said not only are pilots aware of EVERY animal on board each flight, they are also capable of turning the climate control back on even after depressurization. Another source mentions there is more than one way to get into the cargo bay of a plane. So if the door latch was truly stuck, Snickers could have been removed another way. Unfortunately I was not able to verify these facts.
One would expect at the very least, that Delta would reimburse Heather for the monetary value of Snickers, plus the deathly plane fare, and vet bills. (Aprox. $2000). Of course that would never replace a dear pet, but it would recoup out of pocket expenses.
Delta was kind enough to offer the cost of Snickers ticket plus $50. They arrived at this number by the following equation: Dimensional value is determined to be .50 cents per pound. Snickers weighed 3 lbs +his carrier was 20lbs. This equals $11.50, however there is a $50 minimum.
Delta’s heartlessness does not stop here. Here is a screen shot of what some Delta pilots posted on their online forum. It says “If snickers had only been packed with peanuts, they’d all be satisfied” and “Am I the only one who was thinking this?” above the photo of a Snickers Ice Cream Bar.
Another Delta pilot on page 5974 of this forum discusses all the Sphynx owners on Sphynxlair that have rallied around Heather in support, by saying this: "From what I can tell from her blog / forum posts, women who dress hairless cats in hats and call them "my babies" are going to boycott Delta Air Lines. Not sure if that boycott includes our own Flight Attendants."
If you would like to write to Delta about Snickers death, Heather’s mistreatment or their pilot’s comments the email address for Delta’s CEO is: firstname.lastname@example.org
During my research for this story I discovered some more articles about Delta and pet transport. Dog That Escaped From Delta Flight Found Dead , My Dog Died Under Delta's Care, And Airline Blows Me Off (headline exists but link is missing),Entire Dog Lost, Delta Offers $200 Credit and Delta Paid $2800 For Lost Dog Valued At $20,000
According to the American Department of Transportation, Between November of 2009 and October of 2010, 33 animals died, 11 were injured and five were lost during air transport. Of those, Delta reported 12 deaths, four injuries and one loss. American Airlines reported eight animal deaths, while Continental Airlines and United Airlines each reported four and Alaska Airlines three. Hawaiian Airlines and American Eagle had one each.
It is important to note that DOT records animal deaths in transit, but no one keeps tabs on how many die of cold or heat in cargo holds or elsewhere. Although you would assume pets are picked up from the plane in a heated or cooled van, many are left on the runway waiting with luggage and are transported in flatbed trucks exposed to the elements! I was expecting PETA to be all over Snicker’s story! However all I could find were these two paragraphs on their web site:
“When Heather Lombardi considered transporting her kitten, Snickers, by airplane, she was assured that the cargo hold was climate-controlled. What she wasn't told was that the climate in the cargo hold was only controlled in flight. After the plane landed and Snickers was left in the hold for 50 minutes without heat, Heather found the kitten cold and unresponsive. At the time, the temperature outside was just 7 degrees. Snickers died as Heather rushed her to the vet. Our condolences to Heather on the loss of her companion.
Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated incident. Even the biggest hearts and the best intentions can't protect animals from the dangers of a cargo hold. Please, if you're traveling with your animal companions, take the extra time and effort to do it right—they're worth it.”
Since most of you are familiar with PETA’s anti fur campaign which uses celebrities to flog their slogan “I’d rather go naked that wear fur”….I do not think I need to point out the incredible Irony of of PETA’s paltry reaction to Snickers’ plight.
Perhaps if Snickers were “wearing fur” PETA would have responded to his death with more gusto.
There are so many mistakes and missed opportunities in this sad story, it may seem like too much to take in!
Here is a summary of MY concerns with Snickers flight on Delta:
- Customers are not informed that “climate controlled” only means the temperature will not go below 40 F (4 C) and that once depressurization occurs, climate control is lost. If people did know this, I do not think they would ship cargo.
- Customers do not know their pet could be left sitting on the runway or a flatbed truck, exposed to the weather, while luggage is dealt with.
- The cut off temperature for airlines to ship a pet is 10 degrees F (-12 C). When Snickers arrived it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Although 10 is still too low for many pets, this cut off should have ensured Snickers did not ship and may have prevented his death.
- It may have been possible to turn climate control back on, and/or access the cargo bay another way in case of door malfunction, I am inclined to conclude Delta staff just did not care about Snickers.
As a result of Snickers’ story, I do not think any animal should fly cargo. Even though millions of animals fly every year and the total injuries and deaths are considered low by comparison, it is not safe enough for a beloved family member.
If you have to have a pet transported there are other options.
- Buy a ticket and fly in the cabin with your pet if possible.
- Drive to the breeder yourself, or see if someone picking up a litter mate can help you with transportation.
- Use a pet shuttle service that can drive your precious cargo to you. Here is a link to one I have NOT used but have heard positive comments on Shuttle Pet .
- Use a pet airline that ONLY flies animals in the cabin, and monitors them in flight. Here is a link to Pet Airways that ships just animals in the cabin and checks them every 15 mins. Although I have no experience with this company personally, it sounds like a safe option. Heather Lombardi has created a facebook page for Snickers where you can leave comments and read updated information about her claim with Delta. Visit Snickers the Sphynx Supporters.
I shudder to think Snickers’ story could easily have been my own.
Please spread the word about Snickers, do not ship your pet via air cargo and write to Delta’s CEO with your comments. That email address again is email@example.com
Do not forget to check out ALL my other blog reviews! Just choose a date under the "More of my Adventures" heading in the upper right column.