Owner seeks damages after dog dies on flight to Vancouver

A Metro Vancouver dog owner is demanding compensation from an airline after her beloved pet arrived dead in a bloody urine crate on a flight from China last summer.

Monique Collette was living and teaching English in Shenyang, China when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and her family urged her to come home to White Rock. She arranged for animal transporters to transport her two dogs, Maverick and Chocolate, first to Guangzhou and then on a flight with China Southern Airlines to YVR.

In Shenyang, she adopted her golden retriever, Maverick, when a colleague’s dog gave birth to a litter. Maverick became an ideal younger but bigger brother to their little dog Chocolate, and he quickly took up obedience and crate training.

Maverick and Chocolate together with owner Monique Collette in Shenyang, China. (Monique Collette / Submitted)

“It was a little ball of fluff. Very stupid and limp, ”she said. “He didn’t know he was a big dog.”

The animal transporters picked up both dogs from Shenyang on July 15 and sent Collette pictures and videos from the daycare where they lived in Guangzhou.

But Maverick didn’t survive the second flight over the Pacific.

“My heart and mind were shut down when I heard he died,” Collette told Daily Hive. “It didn’t come true until I was reunited with my smaller dog. And I realized [I] I only have one dog now. “

Collette with Chocolate and Maverick and a vigil in memory of Maverick. (Monique Colette / Submitted)

The dogs started in Guangzhou on July 25, 2020 when Collette was still in China. She asked her mother, Dorice Bastarache, to pick her up from an international cargo warehouse in Richmond.

Her mother said she waited several hours in the warehouse before a representative from China Southern Mavericks took out the box containing his body. Bastarache could see it was covered in urine and blood.

Maverick had tried to chew his way out, and a veterinarian later discovered that the metal bars had pierced his tongue and mouth.

A local Canada Border Services Agency official recommended that the airline take Maverick’s body to an animal hospital for autopsy and return the cremated remains to the family.

But the airline allegedly did not get through. Instead, Bastarache received a phone call the next day asking to collect Maverick’s body or it would be considered “abandoned cargo” and thrown away.

The family’s independent autopsy found that Maverick’s brain was bleeding when he died, and the vet determined the dog likely died of a heart attack or stroke.

Maverick was otherwise healthy at two and a half years. His family believe he died because the airline did not properly control the temperature and oxygen levels in the hold.

Collette texted a photo of Maverick and Chocolate sitting side by side on a plastic pallet to board the flight to YVR. But another picture of Maverick found dead no longer showed his box on a wooden pallet next to Chocolate.

Collette wonders if the staff moved him while it was loading and not informed the captain – who may not have noticed that there were live animals in that section of the plane to keep the pressure, oxygen and temperature livable.

Loner box

Mavericks crate at the start of the flight and at the end. His owner wonders why he was transported in a separate area from her other dog, who arrived safely. (Monique Collette / Submitted)

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone,” said Collette. “I want to spread awareness and maybe change something [the] The way China Southern does things … I want justice for Maverick. “

Rebeka Breder, an animal lawyer handling the case, said pilots should know when there are live animals in the aircraft’s hold so they can properly control conditions.

“My client asked for answers to find out how her dog died such a gruesome death. She wants to be sure that something like this never happens again, ”said Breder

Few airlines accepted pets in their holds at the time due to the heat, something Collette didn’t know at the time, Breder said. She wants to know why China Southern accepted the animals in the face of the extreme conditions.

For the time being, Breder has sent China Southern a dunning letter demanding US $ 35,000 in damages. Breder hopes the airline will also apologize and establish guidelines for animal transport that include adequate staff training.

Daily Hive approached China Southern for comment, but the airline didn’t respond.

Breder is only one attorney in Vancouver, and she receives inquiries about animal deaths in aircraft holds about once a year. She recommended not including dogs in the cargo, but said owners who have no choice should always obtain written airline guidelines on how to handle animals before, during and after flights.

“If the airline has such a written document, it shows that the airline has thought about this issue,” said Breder.

She also advised against sedating an animal as it can cause health complications and there is no access to a veterinarian on board an airplane.

Breder hopes that one day airlines will allow larger pets in the cabin with their owners.

“The way [China Southern] has handled the situation from the beginning until today, it’s like Maverick was a chair that broke in flight, ”said Breder. “You had no pity.”