Calgary dog owner Jenna Richardson-Prager is voicing concerns after her pup Cleo was left on the tarmac of Halifax’s airport for about 30 minutes in 30 degree heat.
“My dog is my child,” she told Global News. “And so I was in tears. I was in tears.”
Richardson-Prager said the pair were set to fly out from Halifax’s airport to Calgary this past Saturday when she checked six-year-old Cleo in. She said about an hour before the flight, she looked out the window of the airport and there was Cleo — sitting in her cage on the tarmac with two other dogs — while crews unloaded the previous flight.
“They kept removing the luggage off the plane and unloading the plane to get it ready for us and again the dogs were still out there in the sun. I was so upset seeing her out there. I just knew how hot she must have felt,” she added.
“She had no control of the situation. She was just stuck out there in a crate on the tarmac.”
She said she went to talk to WestJet — three separate times — expressing her concerns, but she was told each time that everything was alright.
“They just said the baggage attendants have it under control, don’t worry about it.”
Richardson-Prager said almost 30 minutes passed before Cleo and the two other pups were loaded onto the plane. She also showed Global News the photos with the timestamps to prove it.
She added flight crews, including the pilot, did check on Cleo during the trip and she was told her rescue pup was doing fine, but she still couldn’t relax.
“I knew she had made it on. I just didn’t know the condition she was in.”
The pair eventually both arrived in Calgary safely.
“I was just so happy,” she said tearfully. “We were both just so happy to see each other.”
Richardson-Prager reported the situation to the airline when she got home. She did receive a number of messages apologizing for Cleo’s delayed boarding and expressing happiness that she was healthy and ok.
Richardson-Prager said she’s still upset WestJet did not follow up on her complaints. She is also calling for a comprehensive plan for people flying with pets.
“I paid for a service to have my dog transported safely and if they can’t do that then they just shouldn’t be doing it,” she added. “I just hope that people are aware of the risks right now.”
A WestJet spokesperson told Global News the airline does have a ‘pet plan’ which includes checking temperatures outside and inside the plane.
It also said it does its best to board pets on the aircraft as ‘fast as possible to minimize time spent on the tarmac’, but it’s important to also minimize the time pets spend onboard prior to take off.
“WestJet takes the transportation of animals very seriously,” the airline said. “And successfully transports thousands of animals per year through our Cargo and passenger services.”
Unlike a recent Air Canada policy not allowing pets in the baggage hold this summer amid delays, WestJet does not have such a policy. However, it does not allow specific breeds to travel when the ground temperature is at 29.5 degrees or above.