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Dog dies on BA flight

A HEARTBROKEN couple were told that their pet dog had died on a long-haul flight to Australia, but only later learned after a post mortem that the dog had died of thirst on the 32-hour flight.

Ed and Sheila Smith had decided to surprise their daughter Julie for her birthday, so they paid £3,000 to have Border Collie Joe flown out to her in Australia after she had said how much she was missing the family pet.

The Smiths, from Cornwall, paid extra special attention to Joe’s needs and even placed a letter on his flight crate listing his likes and dislikes. They also provided a telephone number in case of an emergency. Joe was due to fly from Heathrow to Sydney and then spend four weeks in quarantine under Australian regulations. During this time a family friend had promised to visit Joe in kennels every day.

Mr and Mrs Smith were then due to fly out to Sydney, collect Joe from quarantine and take him with them to the Queensland resort of Noosa, where recently-emigrated Julie, 26, lives with her husband Steve. Although Julie was expecting her parents for her birthday, she was not expecting Joe.

“We were going to tie a bow around Joe and send him into her with a birthday card,” said Mr Smith. “When we checked him into his kennel at Heathrow airport, he was in perfect condition. I checked and double-checked that he had food and water. Then my wife took a call saying he was dead. She was beside herself and Julie burst into tears when I broke the news to her.”

A veterinary post-mortem found that eight-year-old Joe had suffered fatal dehydration during the flight from Heathrow to Sydney via Bangkok. The Smiths believe it likely that the dog’s water supply was not replenished during the stopover.

"We have been passed from pillar to post by people who don’t seem to care," said Mr Smith, bitterly.

A BA spokesman offered Mr and Mrs Smith the company’s ‘Deepest sympathy’, but denied that Joe’s water was not checked, saying: "We take our responsibility for caring for pets very seriously and acted in accordance with these regulations. The dog’s water levels were checked at Heathrow and in Bangkok. We are confident we followed procedure correctly."

l British Airways instigated a ban on flat faced dog breeds in 2003 after a Bulldog died on a flight from Heathrow to Sydney in October 2002. A spokesman commented at the time to OUR DOGS:

“We have investigated our processes and procedures surrounding this flight and are satisfied that things were carried out in the correct manner.

“The owner refused to allow a post mortem examination and therefore the dog's death was put down to natural causes. In the terms and conditions of our cargo carriage BA is not responsible for the death of animals due to natural causes.”