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When Emma and Sean O’Farrell began planning their family’s move from Toronto to England, there was no question that their beloved dog Scarlett would be with them.
“Scarlett is part of our family, leaving her behind was never an option,” said Emma. “She always came with us.”
According to Air Canada guidelines, larger pets – like Scarlett, a 40-pound Bernese Mountain Dog – must fly internationally, be booked through a third-party company that specializes in pet transportation, and through the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA).
The family hired Worldwide Animal Travel (WAT) in Vancouver. The price tag? $ 4,800.
“It’s a huge effort,” said Emma. “You don’t take that lightly as an owner.”
The IPATA requires members to exercise the utmost care with animals. WAT and Emma corresponded by email about medications Scarlett had to take for arthritis, which is common with the breed. All details have been pre-approved by the company
But the Toronto family experience is a warning to anyone considering shipping their pet. Scarlett arrived in England unable to walk, and as her condition worsened in the days to come, the new vet recommended that the family put her to sleep.
Scarlett had a pre-trip check-up and was cleared for take-off. And while Emma admits that the journey could have been just too much for an eight-year-old Bernese man – the breed’s life expectancy is only seven to ten years – she wants to warn other pet owners that air travel involves risks.
It does not claim any wrongdoing by WAT or the airline. But she says when she told WAT about Scarlett’s fate and inquired about the dog’s condition at various stages of the trip, she was unhappy with the company’s response.
“To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of sympathy,” she said. “I can return an item to a store and get better service and understanding.”
Go Public’s investigation shows that a number of agencies have rules for the humane treatment of animals in transit, including the International Air Transport Association and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which said they are following the Animal Health Act to restrict the transportation of ” all “Animals in, within, and out of Canada, including pets.”
Scarlett had arthritis but was unable to walk when she arrived in the UK and her condition soon worsened. (Submitted by Emma O’Farrell)
Once animals are delivered to an airline by an animal transport service, the airline takes responsibility for the welfare of the pets until they arrive at their destination. The hold must be kept at a reasonable temperature, boxes are secured and water is available.
After the seven-hour flight from Toronto to Heathrow Airport in London, Scarlett was examined and her papers checked by a government-appointed veterinarian. The vet noted in a report to Air Canada that she appeared to be a little “unsteady on her feet”, but no other health problems were reported. The dog has been released for entry.
A courier then took Scarlett 100 miles to the O’Farrell’s new home in Worcester.
But the courier came with surprising information. When he picked Scarlett up at the airport, he’d been told she couldn’t walk.
“My husband carried Scarlett into the house,” said Emma.
She said she contacted WAT and was told it is not uncommon for animals to take some time to recover from a long flight.
But as the days went by, the dog became less alert, according to Emma, who, while still in Toronto, had FaceTime with Scarlett several times in hopes that the sound of her voice would cheer her up.
Scarlett, in her kennel, ready to leave Toronto. She was examined before the trip and cleared for departure. (Submitted by Worldwide Animal Travel)
Two weeks after the dog was handed over at Toronto Airport, the difficult decision was made to have her euthanized. Scarlett’s new vet in the UK did not make an official diagnosis of her deteriorating condition. But since she wept in pain, it was concluded that the gracious course of action would be to bring her down.
“I don’t think I ever believed that I would never see her again when we put her in the back seat of the car to the airport,” said Emma. “I still find it hard to believe.”
When she notified WAT, Emma said a representative had told her to speak to Air Canada.
“Air Canada has been more compassionate,” she said, noting that the airline had sent a letter of condolence over the loss of Scarlett and shared information it had received from UK authorities.
Co-owner Ruthy Peters says WAT has rarely had complaints in the 25 years of its existence.
“I love animals with all my heart, and if something happened to the dog we’d want to know right away, and we wouldn’t stop at anything to find out what happened,” she said.
Peters also expressed doubts about the O’Farrells’ experience for failing to provide the company with a report from the veterinarian who euthanized Scarlett as requested by WAT.
Emma with her husband Sean, three sons and Scarlett. (Submitted by Emma O’Farrell)
“The only thing we know is that Scarlett was diagnosed with arthritis before the owners decided to relocate her. The arthritis was so severe that she took pain medication, wobbled her legs, and had trouble walking. Scarlett became the one Airline offered. ” , she flew and arrived safely at London Heathrow Airport, “she wrote in an email to Go Public.
Peters added that Scarlett couldn’t have been too distressed after the flight as the Heathrow Animal Reception Center waved her through the immigration process. Animals with severe health problems are not allowed into the country. The center did not respond to Go Public’s requests for documents related to the case.
“Without the veterinary records, we cannot offer or help their owners with ‘compassionate compensation’,” Peters wrote.
“The last straw”
Emma has the report from the Worcester vet indicating that Scarlett could not stand and appeared to be suffering. But she didn’t want it to be forwarded to WAT because, she claims, co-owner Bruno Mansueto was unsympathetic.
“From day one Bruno didn’t really care that we lost Scarlett,” she said.
CLOCK | The beloved dog’s trip to England ends badly:
Dog owners mourned after their pet’s trip to England | Getting to the public
She was offended that Mansueto asked if the family would request an autopsy from Scarlett, known as a necroscopy in animals.
“That was the last straw,” she said. “He hasn’t shown us any compassion, so I won’t give him any more of Scarlett as she has to rest in peace.”
Peters insists that she and her partner are only interested in understanding what happened to her client’s dog and that their rejection has nothing to do with the company’s services.
“I suspect Scarlett’s problem was caused by something else entirely,” she wrote.
Angela Passman, a board member of IPATA, said the organization has member companies in nearly 90 countries serving over 700 airports and that problems are rare.
“There are only a handful of incidents,” she said in an interview from Dallas, noting that according to IPATA records, 2.2 million animals fly in a typical year. She said complaints can be referred to the organization’s ethics committee, and if an investigation shows rules have been violated, members can be suspended.
When asked about the $ 4,800 fee, Passman said, “The fees can be quite high to be honest, but look at everything that is included. We need export documents, reports from veterinarians and booking is usually not a one-step process. ”
Emma wants pet owners to realize that they ultimately have to decide what risk to take for their pet in the event of an accident there can be few answers and little consolation.
She says – because WAT brought up Scarlett’s age and arthritis after her death – that maybe the company should have refused to move her.
“[They] didn’t say, ‘Oh, by the way, we see she has arthritis, we see that she is eight years old, we’d rather not take Scarlett,’ “she said.
“I would never want another family to go through what we went through.”
Still mourning their loss, the O’Farrells are unsure of what made their pet’s health so dramatic after their flight.
“Scarlett’s leash is on a hook in our new house,” said Emma. “Your ashes are next to the photos of my three sons. Your bed is still under my son’s bed.”
A photo taken at the O’Farrell’s new home in Worcester, UK, showing Scarlett’s leash still hanging on the door. (submitted by Emma O’Farrell)
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