A family's pug died on Nov. 1 in the cargo hold of a Delta Air Lines transatlantic flight between Moscow and New York City.
"He's part of our family. I'm heartbroken, devastated, destroyed," owner John Von Achen, Jr. told WKMG. The family is blaming the death of the pug, named "J", on frigid temperatures on the plane.
"On the plane itself, it was so cold that the passengers would ask for second blankets," said Von Achen's wife, Julia. "I would ask the flight attendants, 'We have a dog there, and it is so cold for people, will he be okay?'"
After they landed in New York, John Von Achen checked on his dog and said he was like a "popsicle."
Delta says it is investigating the death. A spokesperson told WKMG that the airline has had unnamed "challenges" transporting pets. An emailed statement from the airline said "With those past challenges, we take the transport of pets very seriously and safely transport many hundreds of pets every year. Again, we regret this episode and will work with the customer to make it right."
The Von Achens took their 4-year-old dog to a veterinarian who cleared the pug for transit prior to the flight. Von Achen — an American strategic consultant who lives in Moscow and works with Asian and Russian companies — said he will never travel with animals again.
The family had two pugs, named "J" and "K" after Will Smith's and Tommy Lee Jones's characters in the "Men in Black" movies. It appears that "K" was not traveling with them.
Delta has the second-highest rate of pet injuries during airline travel, according to statistics from the Department of Transportation. Between 2005 and 2009, 224 dogs were reported as killed, injured or lost by airlines. Continental had the worst record, with 58 incidents. Delta had 43, while Alaska Airlines had 36 incidents.
At least 122 of those 224 incidents were deaths, the highest percentage of which involved brachycephalic or short-nosed dogs such as pugs or English bulldogs. Short-nosed dogs are particularly susceptible to overheating, a more likely scenario in airplane cargo holds than a cold transatlantic flight.
Overheating became a public issue in August 2010 when seven of 14 puppies died after an American Airline flight between Tulsa and Chicago. According to a report from CBS News, American Airlines' policy is to not allow animals on their planes when temperatures are expected to go above 85 degrees, but the temperatures that day exceeded that threshold.
There are no statistics for the number of pets that travel on airlines. After last year's puppy incident, an American Airlines spokesperson said they transport "100,000 or more ever year."
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