How Are Pets Really Treated While Flying?

With many airlines catering to pet travelers, United Airlines offers a ‘PetSafe’ program. On their website they state, “PetSafe offers airport-to-airport delivery for animals and features a 24-hour live animal desk, the ability to track pets from origin to destination and more.” Depending on the size and weight of your pet, the PetSafe program can range between $189 and $659.

United’s PetSafe program promises that pets will be held before and after flights and during layovers in a temperature controlled cargo facility, and transported to and from the planes in a temperature appropriate van.

Although the marketing for PetSafe is slick, don’t be fooled. It doesn’t translate to your pets being flown safely.

Pawnation posted a horrifying story about a woman trying to provide the best travel arrangements for her pets when she was moving from San Diego to Boston in July. Janet Sinclair used PetSafe to transport her Greyhound, Sedona, and her cat, Alika.

The recent Pawnation articles states, “PetSafe promised personal care of the pets under temperature-controlled conditions, as well as a comfort and safety stop in Houston for an extra fee. In reality, the stop was anything but comfortable and safe. Sinclair said that she watched from her window seat as an employee kicked Sedona’s crate six times to move it into shade instead of moving it gently.”

A video that Sinclair took with her smartphone while waiting on the delayed flight (no longer available online) shows her pets being left outside in the 94-degree summer heat. Sinclair said the ordeal of traveling brought Sedona to the brink of death.

“Sedona’s entire crate was filled with blood, feces, urine,” Sinclair said. “Sedona was in full heat stroke. All of the blankets were filled with blood. She was urinating and defecating blood. She was dying, literally, right in front of me.” The vet who treated Sedona confirmed she suffered from heat stroke, a urinary tract infection, kidney failure and liver problems. She spent three days in intensive care.

A recent Reuters article stated, “Pets flying with their owners are killed, injured or lost on average once every 10 days, according to Mary Beth Melchior, founder of the watchdog group Where Is Jack Inc. who keeps a tally of large carriers’ reports to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Her organization is named for a 5-year-old cat who died in 2011 after being lost for two months in New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.”

Tempted to fly your pet during the upcoming holidays? Lost pets can be as common as lost luggage during the high travel seasons. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you do not transport your pet by air unless absolutely necessary.

Sign the petition asking United Airlines to pay the vet bills for the dogs injured while traveling on United. While United Airlines did actually offer to pay for her veterinary care, it was only on the condition of her signing a non-disclosure statement.

Have you had any positive or negative experiences flying with your pets? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.

Have you seen the new Adoptable Pets page on Care2? Please also share with your friends. We’d love your help in finding homes for these adorable animals!

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Julia R.
Julia R.2 months ago

This horrible incident is one of thousands for just this airline! I have signed many petitions on about pets being lost by airlines who made no attempts to even track their whereabouts and many who have died from ill treatment and leaving them in hot or freezing temps. like poor Sedona! If you have a small dog, then they can fly with you in the cabin, but for medium and large dogs, it is a nightmare! Try to make other arrangements if you have a larger dog who can't fly in the cabin.

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

signed, thanks for sharing :)

Nimue P.
Nimue Pendragonabout a year ago


Silvia Steinhilber
Silvia Steinhilberabout a year ago

I will never put my furbaby on a plane unless he's in my arms for the entire trip.

Bea W.
Bea Wilsonabout a year ago

It's so sad to read stories like this. Wouldn't it be great if there was an all animal safe flight plane? Of course, the only humans allowed would be the pilot(s) and a few animal lovers to feed and water them. Let's not forget a vet in case of an emergency.

Evan Jane Kriss
Evan Jane Kriss1 years ago

This is inexcusable behavior. This is not luggage we are talking about, the contents of which if lost or damaged, can be replaced. It is SENTIENT LIFE. It is our COMPANIONS, our FAMILY. The airlines do not treat humans very well, so why would anyone think that animals would be treated any better? If you must fly with an animal, book IN CABIN passage so you can be with your pet.

Brad Hunter
Brad H.1 years ago


Sima Gatides
Sima Gatides1 years ago

avoid air travel with your pet at any is too stressful for them

Wisteria K.
Past Member 1 years ago

""Pets flying with their owners are killed, injured or lost on average once every 10 days"""

But my hairdresser in Norway often fly to his house in France and has his little dog on his lap. And he never had any problems .

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth1 years ago

How horrible. The airline should certainly pay the costs for vet without putting condition on it and also pay much more for the animals pain and suffering.