Airline Investigates Deaths Of Puppies After Flight From Tulsa To Chicago

Wednesday, August 4th 2010, 11:10 am
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland and

CHICAGO, IL -- American Airlines is conducting an internal investigation into how a group of puppies died after arriving on a flight from Tulsa to Chicago early Tuesday morning.

The airline says 7 of the 14 puppies on the flight died.

American Airlines flight 851 departed Tulsa at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport at 8:54 a.m.  Airline spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan says the flight was delayed in Tulsa.  It was supposed to leave at 6:30 a.m., but was delayed because of storms in Chicago.

The temperature at Tulsa International Airport at 5:53 a.m. was 85 degrees.  By 7:53 a.m., the temperature had risen to 87 degrees.

"They obviously attempted to travel at the right time of day - direct flight. Those are what I call critically important," said Dr. Mike Jones of the Woodland West Animal Hospital.

"It depends on how they are shipped. If they are shipped in one large container, and again not able to move around, puppies laying on each other overcrowding - we know overcrowding is a stressor," Jones said.

After arriving at O'Hare, the puppies, which were in kennels, were taken from the plane's cargo hold and put in a holding area until they could be placed on connecting flights. 

Fagan says workers noticed the puppies looked lethargic so they began to try to cool them off.  All were sent to a Chicago veterinarian where 7 died. 

"We're going to learn from this incident. We've been transporting animals safely for 50 years. We do not want this happening again," Fagan said.  She did not know the breed involved.

She declined to release information about who shipped the puppies or what breed of dog is involved.

"Well, they shouldn't have been loaded if it was between 85 and 87," said Ruth Steinberger of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association.

It is a USDA law that airlines cannot accept pets when the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees. The mercury was hovering at that temperature at time of take off.

"I would not imagine taking the risk if I were a puppy producer or breeder," Steinberger said. "I would question somebody loading them right at that last second knowing that those laws are so important."

If you have information about the breeder or the puppies that were shipped, please contact The News On 6 at