Travelling with pets in Singapore: Mum accuses airline of negligence leading to dog's death

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How safe is it to be travelling with pets in Singapore? A mum has just accused a prominent airline of negligence leading to her dog's death...

A Singapore family who were taking their dog along with them, during their move to Vietnam, were shocked to find that their beloved pet had died, even before boarding the flight…

Travelling with pets in Singapore: One mum’s horrifying experience

The sad incident happened on 2 September, and Mummy Shabana Mary Kuruvilla has since then, put up a long post on Facebook, accusing Singapore Airlines of negligence and misinformation, leading to their dog’s death.

The dog, “Charlie” had been with the family since he was 30 days old, and was 4 years and 7 months old.

According to Shabana’s Facebook post, on 2nd September, they were taking the 1:30 pm  SIA flight to Ho Chi Minh City. So they “arrived early at the PPS Counter to check in our luggage and Charlie.”

She also informs that, “Since pets are taken on as excess baggage we had bought close to 220 kgs of excess baggage in addition to our allowance including Charlie and his crate which weighed around 22 kgs in total.” 

Apparently, they were also asked to make extra payment as pet handling charges for Charlie.

In Shabana’s opinion, the pet handling staff seemed rather inexperienced, “The pet handling staff were not willing to even put the tags. Charlie was barking and they were scared.”

“All pets do get anxious when the owners leave them even for some time. I asked them if they wanted to keep the leash lest they needed to open the crate in case of any issues. They said it was not required.”

“I presumed that if there was any emergency they would have a leash on hand if they had to open the crate. We were so wrong about the blind faith that we placed in Singapore Airlines.”

Charlie was soon wheeled away and by 12:30 pm, the family had arrived at the boarding gate, “They told us he was a bit anxious and had some mucus and if we wanted to see him.”

“Please note this. Mucus or saliva is a very normal thing for a dog and we felt we should not make him more anxious just before boarding.”

“We boarded the aircraft and while on board the Captain made an announcement that we had a pet on board the aircraft. We knew Charlie had boarded from the announcement.”

When they landed in Ho Chin Minh City, they were taken aside and told by the Singapore Airlines staff that Charlie had passed away.

Shabana recalls her horror, “We broke down in complete shock. We wanted to see him. We were in for a bigger shock. Charlie died not on the flight but he was not on the plane as he died in Singapore.”

Shabana and her family were extremely shocked and confused. Why were they not told of the incident before the flight took off? What about the Captain’s announcement about the pet being on the flight?

Unfortunately, staff at Vietnam were clueless too, and Shabana laments, “The staff at Vietnam did not do anything to help us in our situation. Charlie died at the hands of the airline but they clearly were not feeling responsible for what happened or even regretted what had happened. “

Eventually Shabana and her husband managed to get on a flight back to Singapore, “My husband and myself could not control our tears on the flight. We could not stop crying from the time we heard Charlie had passed away.”

And then it was time to see their beloved dog one last time, “Charlie lay motionless , his body was cold, he was stiff , his face was down. There was evidence of a big struggle due to distress. He had chewed up the entire wee pad made of cotton.”

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SHABANA MARY KURUVILLA

Shabana fails to understand why staff did nothing even after spotting signs of distress in the dog, and why she wasn’t informed, “We were told that the pet handling staff are not actually trained people who can handle pets. They treat pets like baggage. Their job is to move them to the pet hold area.”

Shabana says that the SIA staff continued to evade their questions, and failed to provide any satisfactory answers.

Heartbroken, and at her wit’s end, she decided to lodge a police report, “We went to the Singapore Airport police force and explained our situation. The officer took down the details and registered our complaint.”

“He asked us if we suspected any foul play on the part of the airlines. We told the officer that Charlie has had a big struggle which is evident. Either the pet handlers chose to ignore it or they were not around for the entire period of time he was in the pet hold area.”

“He was a perfectly healthy dog. He was examined by a vet and the vet certificate was endorsed by AVA prior to travel.”

“The officer took pictures of how he was lying face down in the crate with just very little left of the wee pad left in the crate.” 

Shabana can’t get over the trauma of seeing her pet dog in that horrible condition, “After registering the complaint we called the dog undertakers who came to collect Charlie around 4:30 pm.”

“It is only when they removed Charlie from the crate we were horrified to see that he had chewed off his paw partially- there was blood on his paw and on the mouth.”

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SHABANA MARY KURUVILLA

“He has used his paws to break open the crate and in desperation had chewed up the wee pad. He appears to have suffered a heart attack from the stress.”

With a heavy heart, she collected the dog’s ashes and flew back to Ho Chi Minh City…

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SHABANA MARY KURUVILLA

Shabana feels that Singapore Airlines has no pet safety protocols in place and no trained staff who can handle pets. She has accused them of severe negligence and lack of responsibility, “Pets dying while on board is heard of. Never in the holding area.”

“Charlie deserves justice. Another pet should not meet the same fate. SIA has no right to be flying pets given the negligence they showed in Charlie’s case unless they come out with revisions in their pet handling policies.”

She shares this advice for all families travelling with pets in Singapore:

“Whichever Airline you choose, please insist on being there in the pet holding area till the time they are transported to the aircraft, or check on who is going to be with them in the pet holding area and how your pets are going to be handed if they become distressed.”

“In the name of protocol they may not permit you to be around. Believe us they have no safety protocols that they observe and no one will be around watching with your pet.”

“Please question and understand how your pets are going to be handled before choosing the airline. You must insist that they inform you if your pet is distressed.”

Singapore Airlines responds 

The Singapore Airlines website lists what you should bear in mind before travelling with pets in Singapore. That includes getting your pet ready for travel, pet container requirements, charges and restricted dog breeds etc…

We contacted SIA over this serious issue, and this is their official statement:

“Singapore Airlines can confirm with regret that a pet dog belonging to passengers who travelled on flight SQ184 from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City on 2 September 2017 had passed away while it was being transferred to the aircraft at Singapore Changi Airport.”

“We are conducting an investigation and for privacy purposes, we are unable to share further details. We wish to express our sincere condolences to the owners at this time.”

At this point of time, it is still unclear what exactly led to Charlie’s death. We hope Shabana and family gain strength to deal with their loss.

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SHABANA MARY KURUVILLA

Shabana’s words are heart-touching, “Charlie was the baby of our house and all of us loved him and cared for him deeply. Charlie was my daughter’s sibling and our son. It is hard to replace him. It is very difficult to cope with his loss.”

“In a new city without him, life seems empty. Time can heal is what they say. Time can heal certain wounds but the loss of a loved one hurts a lot and takes many years to heal. It does not matter if the loved one is a pet or a human.”

May justice prevail.

Also READ: The dos and don’ts before getting a family dog