Delta Air Lines is investigating the death of a young puppy found unresponsive after being transported by air from Ohio to Los Angeles.
The 12-week-old Yorkshire terrier, named Sebastian, was on his way from a breeder to a new home with California man Cory Mcjimson, TMZ was the first to report.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Sebastian’s family and are conducting a thorough review of the situation to understand what happened,” said a Delta statement sent to HuffPost.
Mcjimson told TMZ that Sebastian’s flight route included one stop in Atlanta and that he believed the puppy was being transported in the plane’s pressurized cargo hold. He said that when he and his family went to pick up the puppy from the Delta Cargo location on Thursday evening, Sebastian was not breathing or moving. Officials with the airline rushed the dog to an animal hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Sebastian’s cause of death ― and whether it resulted from something that occurred during the flight or before he ever boarded a plane ― is unclear.
Statistically, the number of pets that die during flights is low. But air travel, particularly when animals are traveling in the cargo hold, can be extremely stressful and frightening due to factors like noise, air pressure changes, the plane’s movement, fluctuating temperatures and being stuck in a confined space. Animals can injure themselves trying to escape from their crates.
And when pets are traveling in the cargo hold ― as opposed to the passenger cabin ― their owner isn’t there to comfort them or help if something goes wrong. The specific policies about flying with animals vary from company to company, but most major airlines allow passengers to travel with a pet cat or dog under a certain size in the cabin for a fee. Those fees and size restrictions generally don’t apply to service or emotional support animals, though the way that airlines handle emotional support animals could be changing very soon.
Animal welfare advocates tend to recommend not flying with a pet in cargo unless doing so is absolutely necessary. For people who need to travel with an animal, the Humane Society of the United States has a guide on how to make the experience as safe as possible, including advice if you absolutely must fly your pet in cargo.