How many arrive alive? Grieving pet owner wants flight stats
A MACKAY woman left devastated when her French bulldog died on-board a Qantas flight is still without answers, as she calls on airlines and regulatory bodies to release animal death statistics.
Jody Delfsma, who moved to Mackay from Darwin to work for a mining company, was ready to be reunited with her 21-month dog Kendrick after being apart for five months.
The dog had stayed in Darwin with Ms Delfsma's partner, Simon, and was due to fly from Darwin to Mackay on March 31, but while on board the flight bound for Brisbane, he was found dead.
"The biggest impact has been coming home to an empty house every day after work," Ms Delfsma said. "I cry most nights."
French Bulldogs are considered a high-risk dog to travel due to respiratory problems because of the size and shape of their head and airways, but Kendrick had travelled before including this particular route three times.
Back in January, travelling to Mackay on Virgin Airlines, Kendrick had to be taken off the flight when he was found distressed by one of the workers in baggage handling.
Kendrick was taken to a vet and Ms Delfsma was told he had become "stressed" and "dehydrated".
She was told to use the service Jetpets through Qantas, as it had air-conditioning that would limit his exposure to heat.
She and partner Simon were assured that Kendrick would be safe and well looked after and remain in the air-conditioning during transport.
"We were anxious and hesitant, and we thought how many dogs die or are injured or unwell?"
Three days after her dog was found dead, Ms Delfsma had to choose between an autopsy, to find out what happened, or have Kendrick's body back.
She forfeited the autopsy, describing that decision as "frustrating" as she felt it meant there would be no accountability for the company or airline.
But it was choosing between "making a point, or letting your animal rest". "I didn't trust them, that if my dog couldn't arrive alive, how could I trust that was my dog in the ashes," she said.
Kendrick now rests in Ms Delfsma's parents' garden.
But she wants to bring to light the Australian aviation animal mortality and injury statistics to allow pet owners to make an educated decision, when putting animals in the hands of airlines.
"In our decisions to fly or not to fly, it came down to people saying it was a risk, but again, how do you know what the risk is when there are no numbers or figures or data to base that decision on?" she said.
She likened the importance of collecting data to her own job within the mining industry.
"If there is a safety incident it is measured and there is data collected and there are ratings made on the businesses and companies. The deaths of our pets should not be hidden, go unreported or be forgotten," she said.
"I want Kendrick and every other animals death on planes to become a number.
"A number that is measured, monitored, compared, a number that tells an honest story and keeps Australian airlines and pet carriers honest."
Facing questions from The Daily Mercury, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority said they did not collect that sort of information and that it was up to the individual airlines.
However both Qantas and Jetpets said they were unable to provide the data.
A Qantas spokesperson did say they understood how upsetting the loss of a pet could be. "This type of incident is very rare and our staff are trained to ensure animals travel safely and comfortably when flying with us." JetPets declined to comment for the story.