Pomeranian Coast

After 4 pets die during PCS flights, the Air Force reviews policy

The Air Force is reviewing its policy for transporting service member pets worldwide after four pets died on flights this summer.

Three pets have died in the past two weeks while troops and their families traveled on Patriot Express, a commercial charter airline contracted by the Department of Defense, while relocating overseas.

In a public letter, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Mike Minihan said the deaths were “unacceptable” and promised changes.

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“As a pet owner with five trips abroad, I am acutely aware of the risks, costs and extreme concerns when it comes to these important members of our family,” Minihan wrote in a July 15 letter. “AMC reviews every aspect of Patriot Express pet travel, including issues beyond our control, to further strengthen pet safety.”

Managed by Air Mobility Command, Patriot Express is a flight option for service members who are receiving permanent station change orders, or PCS orders, and must give up their lives to move around the world for their military careers. It’s a free or relatively inexpensive option compared to commercial airlines and offers more flexibility than major airlines when it comes to traveling with pets.

While many airlines have race and height restrictions for in-cabin travel, Patriot Express offers more options. But recent pet deaths have raised concern among service members and animal rights activists.

Air Mobility Command has transported nearly 46,000 pets for service members since 2017, during which time 16 have died, the Air Force said in a statement. The service said 14 are dogs of snub-nosed breeds, which are more prone to long-term respiratory problems and may not cool down as quickly in hot environments, according to the American Kennel Club.

“Aside from the heat and stress of air travel, there were commonalities in some of the recent deaths that you need to be aware of now,” Mininhan wrote in a letter to military families. “The health, age, breed and sedation of pets appear to be factors.”

A French bulldog died in its travel crate in the terminal at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa on July 14, according to Stars & Stripes. On July 1, a 10-year-old Pomeranian mix named Kolbie, who belonged to a Marine Corps family, died of heat stroke while on a Patriot Express flight in Japan.

A July 14 statement and Minihan’s July 15 letter both mention another pet death in July and also confirm that a dog had died “earlier this summer en route from Andersen AFB to Alaska” — bringing the total of four pet deaths in increased this summer.

Leave No Paws Behind USA, a nonprofit organization that helps military families with the costs and logistics of transporting their pets when they are assigned to a new duty station, was outraged by the deaths and called for immediate reform.

“By the way, pets are not on the military’s radar [they] should be,” Leave No Paws Behind posted on Facebook. “The family pet is PART of our military family. It needs accountability, the policy needs to change!”

Minihan wrote in his letter that Air Mobility Command made some immediate changes, e.g. B. allow owners access to their pets during stopovers; allowing animals into air-conditioned terminals while they are being loaded onto aircraft; and refrigeration of cargo loads during loading and unloading of flights.

Honest Paws, a cannabinoid oil company that makes pet products, released a study last year citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showing that 250 animals died either before or during commercial flights between 2010 and 2020.

After several headlines about pet deaths on planes, commercial airlines have implemented a variety of rules and regulations for traveling with animals, ranging from breed and weight restrictions to limiting the number of animals allowed per passenger.

Minihan said the simplest solution would be for Patriot Express to follow these commercial flight guidelines, but it would cause great inconvenience for service members attempting to relocate with their pets.

“In these challenging times, the easiest thing to do is to immediately align AMC’s pet travel guidelines with airline industry standards, which would severely limit, and eliminate in significant numbers, travel for specific breeds, health conditions and climate environments,” Minihan wrote. “This would leave thousands of military pet owners with expensive and limited to no travel options.”

Leave No Paws Behind USA said in another Facebook post that Air Mobility Command is “doing absolutely everything we can to change and update policies to prevent further deaths.”

— Thomas Novelly can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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