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Airline fined over handling of bichon

Bichon Frise Chasnaz Diamond Solitaire with owner Leah Davis

A LEADING cut-price airline was fined £250 for mishandling a pedigree dog on a flight from Ireland to England last year. Leah Davis was travelling from Dublin to Gatwick on a Ryanair flight on November 15th last year to exhibit her Bichon Frise Chasnaz Diamond Solitaire ‘Katie’ at the Bichon Frise Club of GB championship show the following day. She had booked for Katie to fly in the plane’s hold, assuming that the hold was heated, with facilities to carry animals.

Mrs Davis told OUR DOGS: "On arrival at the departure area, I checked with a member of the Staff that Katie had arrived for boarding and was told that she was fine and that he would look after her. I had even put a note on her carrying crate with her name and asking them to keep her dry."

The flight passed without incident. However, on arrival at Gatwick, Mrs Davis became increasingly concerned when she went to the Servisair desk to collect Katie but was informed that her luggage had not arrived and staff did not know why there was a delay.

"I asked the Manager of Servisair where my dog was and he made a phone call and then told me that there was a problem opening the door of the hold," says Mrs Davis. "I got very anxious and upset because I thought that Katie would be dead as the air conditioning would have been turned off.

The manager inquired about the dog’s welfare and was told that the door of the hold was open about six inches, ‘so she would be getting air’. Sometime later the Servisair manager said he would go down to the aircraft himself to find out what was happening, whilst Mrs Davis was becoming increasingly distressed due to the lack of information and not knowing what was happening to Katie.

"Suddenly the luggage carousel started moving and the luggage arrived but no Katie, as the last passengers were collecting their cases a young lady came to tell me that Katie was being brought up," continues Mrs Davis. "She arrived with two gentlemen and was delighted to see me, I was very relieved to see her too, and she appeared to be okay."

One of the men who brought Katie up to Mrs Davis was an officer from Trading Standards, based at the airport, who told her that the luggage loaders in Dublin had put Katie's crate on the metal base of the plane, unsecured and that the wet luggage had fallen on top of her crate. When they opened the hold the luggage handlers were perturbed to find the dog with ice on her face and was cold state.

Katie was then taken to a room by Trading Standards officials where she was warmed up and checked for health before being taken to Mrs Davis.


But Mrs Davis’s problems were not over. Although Katie appeared to be fit, she had obviously been traumatised by the incident, as was reflected by an incident at the show the next day.
"We went to the show the next day, Katie escaped and ran out of the hall but was eventually caught by another exhibitor. This was the first time that she had ever run away and I am sure this was due to the stress and fear that she had experienced on that flight," says Mrs Davis. "However our brave little show girl went on to take second in her class, which was wonderful considering! "My daughter arranged for us to fly back with British Midland from Heathrow that evening, as I was not prepared to put Katie through another flight with Ryanair."

She then contacted Trading Standards who took the airline to court for neglecting the dog when it was in their care and failing to provide the service the passengers could expect.

Photos and a vets report on the dog’s condition were considered. Ryanair contested the case, but were found guilty and ordered to pay a £250 fine with £650 costs.

As a direct result of the case, Ryanair ceased carrying animals on its flights from 1st April 2003. When OUR DOGS reported on this decision earlier this year after the company had announced that animals would no longer be carried, the airline refused to comment on why they had taken this decision. Ryanair did not respond to OUR DOGS’ telephone calls for a comment on the court case.

An official from Trading Standards confirmed that the case had taken place and a judgement had been made against the airline, but had no further comments.

Leah Davis concluded: "We are very thankful that our lovely little Katie did not freeze to death and remains a very happy little dog who loves everybody. She still does not like to be crated and now always sleeps and travels with one of our other Bichons. Her showing career continues and she is just four point away from gaining her Irish Title. This experience could have happened at any time to any one of the many exhibitors and their dogs who had travel by air like ourselves with complete trust."