On Monday, PETA sent out a press release advising travelers not to ship their pets in the cargo holds of planes. The animal rights group based their position on a July report from the U.S. Department of Transportation that pointed to the deaths of 122 dogs and 22 other animals in cargo holds in the past five years. PETA advised travelers to only take along their pets when they can be flown in the cabin.
"Animals are not cargo—they are family. Unless you want to risk their lives, transport them by car or leave them with a trusted guardian if they are too big to fly with you in the cabin," says PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch.
The very next day, it seems, someone shipped 14 puppies in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight from Tulsa, Okla. to Chicago. It was hot, storms delayed the flight and when it finally arrived in Chicago, many of the puppies were in distress. Eventually, seven of them died despite the efforts of American employees and vets. The airline, which says its cargo holds are kept between 50 and 70 degress, would not identify the shipper. American says it continues to investigate the incident.
When I moved to Maryland, I shipped my cat on a flight from Florida. Looking back, he did seem a bit hot when I picked him up at the airport - lots of panting - but I didn't pay close attention. Since then, we've taken him to Florida once in the car, with a tranquilizer. He was fine. So I don't think I would ship him on a plane again. PETA may be right. It's too scary. For him and me.