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Teacher considering legal action after dog's “horrible” death in cargo hold of Vancouver flight

Maverick’s owner says she has been given no answers as to why her beloved dog died on the flight in July 2020.

Golden Retriever sat in front of a blossom tree
Maverick, Monique Collette's two-and-half-year-old Golden Retriever

A teacher is considering legal action against a Chinese airline after her beloved Golden Retriever died a “horrible” death in the cargo hold of a long-haul flight to Vancouver.

Monique Collette, the owner of two-and-half-year-old Maverick, was devastated when she was sent a text from her professional pet mover telling her he had died during the China Southern Airlines flight from Guangzhou on 25th July 2020.

Ms Collette, who lives in White Rock, had been preparing a move home from the city of Shenyang where she had been teaching abroad for several years, and used a professional pet moving company to transport her two dogs, Maverick and Chocolate - a Pomeranian Mix - home to Canada before her arrival.

The dogs initially flew on a 6-hour flight to Guangzhou on 15th July 2020 and were cared for by the pet transportation company for 10 days before departing for the second leg of their journey. During their stay, Ms Collette said she was sent numerous videos and photos of her dogs looking “happy and healthy”.

She said that on the day of their final journey, she was sent a photo of the pair in their separate crates on the same blue plastic shipping pallet, ready for the 12-hour flight to Vancouver where they were to be collected by her mother.

Monique with her two dogs - Golden Retriever, Maverick and Pomeranian Mix, Chocolate
Monique with her two dogs - Golden Retriever, Maverick and Pomeranian Mix, Chocolate

She said: “I was so excited. I was just you know, I was there. I was at the high peak where I did it. I made it. I'm gonna get them home. They're going to meet my mom at the airport. I'm so excited for my mom to meet Maverick and Chocolate.”

But Ms Collette’s dream was shattered hours later when she was told the devastating news that Maverick had died - just minutes before she was due to teach a class.

“It was the worst day of my life”

“It tore me down, I was not able to teach at all that day,” she said. “I locked myself into a room at the school and just began to cry uncontrollably, hyperventilating, I couldn't breathe. I then had to taxi home. It was, to this day, the worst day of my life.”

After waiting for several hours at the airport, Ms Collette’s mother was told by the airline that while Chocolate had arrived well, Maverick had been pronounced dead on arrival. A photo showed his crate - which had been put on a wooden pallet separate to Chocolate - bloody with mangled bars.

Representatives from China Southern Airlines told Ms Collette’s mother they would send his body for an autopsy and would cremate his remains and return the ashes to her.

However the next day, Ms Collette said the airline told her mother an autopsy would not take place, and she would have to collect Maverick’s body otherwise it would be “considered abandoned cargo”.

A family friend helped her mother drive Maverick’s body to an animal hospital in Abbotsford where an autopsy found he had suffered a brain haemorrhage, and had likely died from a heart attack or a stroke.

Two photos in one image. First shows two dogs in separate sized crates on the same pallet. The second photo shows the mangled bars of the crate Maverick was in, now on a different pallet
A photo sent by the professional pet movers show Maverick and Chocolate ready for their flight on the same pallet, a stark contrast to the photo on the right of Maverick's bloodied crate on arrival in Vancouver.

The vet also confirmed that Maverick had ripped off pieces of wood as he tried to escape his crate, and had punctured his tongue and mouth on the bars.

Ms Collette said: “His last moments alive were horrible and that's what really hurts me because he died in such a horrible, horrible way.”

She said the animal hospital told her that representatives from China Southern Airlines had asked for samples from his body and information to be sent to them - a request the vet denied.

She also alleges the airline had tried to obtain information from the animal hospital on "at least two separate occasions" without her or her mother's consent.

“I don't understand why they would have to do that. They're not even willing to bring them to the hospital themselves. They just wanted to get rid of him.”

“He was healthy, everything was fine. We need answers.”

Ms Collette suspects that because Chocolate and two other small dogs on the flight survived - and that her dogs arrived in Vancouver on separate pallets - Maverick was placed in a different part of the cargo hold that may not have been correctly pressurised.

She said: “They haven't communicated any reason to why it would happen. He was healthy. He was two years old. He had been crate trained when he was just a puppy. He had never leaked or cried when it was time for him to go in his crate and he went in his crate when I went to work every day.

"Everything was fine. He had gone on the flight 10 days previously for 6 hours and everything was fine.”

Chocolate (on a sofa) and Maverick (lying on the floor) of a living room in China
Chocolate and Maverick together in China

“We just need some clarity or for them to give us an answer. [They need to] give us an explanation of what happened but definitely their customer service and how they treated us and everything surrounding that was super fishy - and also very traumatic for my mom to go through and the way that they treated her.”

She said that despite repeated requests for answers, she has not heard from the airline since the day of the autopsy.

Ms Collette and her legal counsel Rebeka Breder, an animal law lawyer based in Vancouver, are now considering legal action after a demand letter asking for $35,000 in damages was ignored.

Ms Breder said: “We issued a demand letter to China Southern Airlines, which demanded a reply by October 29, 2021. We have not yet heard from them, and we will be considering our further legal options.

"Going forward, this is an important case because it highlights the dire need for airlines to be held accountable when they are negligent in the care and transportation of companion animals. These animals should be treated like any other human family member.

"There is zero tolerance for people dying on planes. The same should apply for companion (and all) animals”.

OhMyDog! reached out to China Southern Airlines for comment but did not receive a response.


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