Travel Trouble

Investigation launched after 38 dead puppies found on plane

Investigation launched after 38 dead puppies found on plane

Workers were confronted with a tragic scene after a Ukrainian International Airlines plane arrived in Toronto after what is usually a routine 10-hour flight.

Inside were 500 crated puppies, according to Canadian authorities. Many were dehydrated, weak and vomiting. 38 of them were found dead.

The horrifying discovery on June 13 began an investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. And it shed light on a growing international market for dogs, which lawmakers say needs more restrictions.

“The number of dogs imported into the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past few years, and we are screening less than one percent of them,” Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), a veterinarian who last month co-sponsored a bipartisan bill called the Healthy Dog Importation Act, said in an email. “We need to do more to protect these animals and those already in the country.“

Details about the flight remain relatively unknown, including whether Canadian authorities were aware of the large number of puppies arriving into the city. The government, which claims to have “rigorous standards” when it comes to importing animals, has released very little information. 

Ukraine International Airlines said in a statement on Friday that it regretted the “tragic loss of animal life” and is working with local authorities to make “any changes necessary to prevent such a situation from occurring again.”

Animal advocates said flying 500 dogs on a single plane is unusual, if not unprecedented. Dogs require water and other care when being crated on tarmac and during flights, said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Humane Society International in Canada.

“You’re relying on the staff of the airport and the airline to do that care,” she said. “If those animals are transported in those numbers, it would be physically impossible to provide that kind of care.”

The puppies flown from Ukraine were French bulldogs, according to Canadian news reports. The breed is one of several brachycephalic, or snub-nosed dogs, which are known to be so vulnerable to respiratory problems that some US airlines refuse to transport them.