Delta Airlines has been sued by a Utah petowner, Barbara Burgett, for the way it handled her 11 dogs (1 male and 10 puppies) that were flown in cargo. Apparently, the dogs were being shipped internationally from Hungary to Salt Lake City, and three died by the time they arrived. Burgett blames Delta for failing to give them water, food, and keeping them in roasting 120 degree temperatures for many hours.
Bulldogs Flying from Hungary? First, I am surprised that Delta even permitted the dogs (that were French Bulldogs) to be shipped internationally. These days, most airlines do not allow a variety of bulldog breeds from being shipped via air at all, much less internationally. The reason is that bulldogs have very short snouts, meaning that they have more restrictive air and nose passages, which prevents them from being able to get enough air when they are in high altitudes and because of stress and hyperventilation that airline travel can cause animals. A number of airlines ban various bulldog breeds and other short-snouted breeds from traveling in cargo. Because these dogs are too large to travel in coach as a carry-on, they can end up with no way of being able to travel via air.
Pets as “Property.” The other big issue for this petowner is going to be collecting damages from the lawsuit – Burgett’s lawsuit is apparently seeking $4 million. As hard as it is to hear, pets are treated as “personal property” by the law, meaning that a petowner who loses their pet is only usually entitled to attempt to collect the amount the paid for the pet, and possibly vet expenses. Although losing a pet can be like losing a family member, in the eyes of the law, pets are only treated as property, and in a lawsuit, you can usually only recover what you paid for the property. Unless Burgett paid $4 million for the dogs, which would be outrageously high, she will have little chance of actually recovering that much as compensatory damages.
When we flew our dogs from the mid-west to the west coast in the summertime, we were worried about exactly the same unfortunate circumstances that befell this woman. Although it is not common for dogs to die during airline travel, it does affect different breeds more often than others.
So please, owners of short-snouted dogs – beware of the risks of flying your dogs and ship them via air only when necessary and during cool seasons if you have to.