Hairless Kitten Dies After Airline Mishap

Posted on January 25, 2011. Filed under: 4. Guest Bloggers |

We received the following letter from a fan. We felt it was worth sharing as it’s distressing that transporting our pets via a commercial airline still seems to be so risky. Any suggestions out there for how to ensure a pet will be safe when flying them from point A to point B?

Letter from fan Heather Lombardi – Bristol Connecticut:

Last night our family experienced the worst tragedy I have ever personally experienced & I wanted to send this hoping to reach as many animal owners as I possibly can. I appreciate anything at all you can do, even if you only tell your friends. Here is the story of my kitten Snickers & her last night alive. (1/22/2011) I also have attached a picture of her.


We purchased an 11 week old Sphynx kitten (Hairless Kitten) from a breeder & her flight was scheduled to come in last night at 8:40PM on Delta Flight # 738 into BDL (Hartford CT). (Climate controlled cargo by Delta Dash)

We arrived at the airport at 8:15pm, camera & 2 kids in hand to pick up our long awaited new arrival. We immediately went to baggage claim where we would pick her up from her long flight from Utah.

When we arrived, we were told to go sit by the conveyors for luggage & that as soon as the plane was unloaded, they would bring our new family member out to us. We waited & waited & at 8:50 I went to the baggage claim & asked for an update. I told the woman that the kitten was a Sphynx & had no hair & that I was beginning to worry since it was only 7 degrees outside. I was told the flight had arrived on time (8:40pm), but to sit back down, that the cargo hold latch was stuck, but they were doing all they could & would bring her out as soon as they could.

I wasn’t incredibly alarmed; After all, I paid $290 for her to be in a climate controlled cargo area. I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn’t outdoors. At 9:30pm, they brought the carrier out to me & the woman who handed the carrier to me told me I should take her out & that the carrier was very cold. She removed the zip ties & I took the carrier to the floor & opened the door.

The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive. I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up.

She couldn’t lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me — please.

We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp as we frantically drove to the vet.

When we arrived, I literally ran in, and gave her to the nurse who whisked her into the back. After 10 minutes, a vet came out & told me that she that she was “DOA” and that there was nothing they could have done to save her. There was nothing I could have done to save her either.

The vet then explained to me that once a plane lands, the cargo compartment depressurizes & there is no longer climate control. She told me that she didn’t stand a chance in this freezing weather sitting in the Delta Cargo hold for almost 50 minutes.

I spent the rest of the night last night crying & more or less having a nervous breakdown. She died cold, lonely & scared. Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated — I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life.

Delta didn’t have much to say to me last night & the “investigation” is now being handled by the Supervisor of Claims, (You know the person you call when they lose your luggage?) the bottom line is that they can’t bring her back to me or my family, there is nothing they can say or do to make this whole. We don’t want a new kitten; we fell in love with HER. She was our new child & there is nothing that can be done to bring her home to us. Snickers lost her life unnecessarily.

I just hope that by sending this, I can save someone else the devastation. If you travel allot with your pets or are buying an animal & live in a cold climate — PLEASE RETHINK YOUR FLIGHT WHEN IT IS BELOW 30 degrees.  You can put a pet in a climate controlled cargo, but if it depressurizes — IT IS NO LONGER CLIMATE CONTROLLED.

Please please please don’t let another animal die, be patient, let it warm up a bit. She just didn’t stand a chance against a cargo area that is utterly freezing with employees who are more concerned with getting luggage to their respective owners. Value life everyone, I have just experienced something I pray no one else has too. Don’t let Snickers lost life be in vain, I pray you guys read this & maybe another animals life won’t be lost to the cold & lonely Delta Cargo holds.  – Heather Lombardi


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3 Responses to “Hairless Kitten Dies After Airline Mishap”

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Oh, this made me tear up and then my bp went up,and then I teared up again. This was sooooo preventable.

I am both a veterinary technician and a breeder of Cornish Rex cats (and also have a pet Sphynx). I have been breeding CRex since 1989 and have flown many cats in cargo and while I am anxious every time, I follow the airlines requirements to the letter.

I NEVER ship when it is NOT between 45-85 degrees; I NEVER ship before 16 weeks of age; I ALWAYS use a Vari-Kennel 100 (which now run about $75) and I ALWAYS send them with a Snuggle Safe heating pad if the temperature is lower than 60 degrees.

I ALWAYS get a direct flight or I don’t fly them–the owner would need to fly out and get them so they could fly in the cabin with them (and I have had people use their frequent flyer miles to do just that).

But I also have a 4 page adoption application that starts out the adoption process and it doesn’t take long for me to educate people who might want to fly a cat in such conditions.

I have also found that so much depends on who answers the phone, both at the airline and at the veterinarians office, too. Sometimes neither knows the requirements or why those requirements are there–for the protection of the animal, NOT for the convenience of the shipper or consignee!

I do not know how, in good conscience the breeder could have shipped that kitten, or how a veterinarian could have signed off on it! What any good vet should have said…I can’t ok shipping this kitten now.

I am saddened that this little kitten had to lose it’s live because of multiple people being improperly trained or not educated in the reasons not to ship when conditions are like this. This kitten would have been 16 weeks old in a month–and the weather might have been more conducive to flying then also.

Or, the new owner could have flown to pick up the kitten, had it safe and warm in the cabin with her, a much better option for everyone.

Heather, very sorry to hear about your loss. You make a good point. The same is true when it’s really hot outside. Don’t ship your pet via the airlines when the temps are extreme.

Thanks for posting the story so we all know better. RIP Snickers.

[…] recent post over at Petopia about the tragic death of a young kitten who was being transported from Utah to […]

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