Friday, June 18, 2021

Two-year-old dog found dead in Air India cargo hold, airline denies negligence

A two-year-old dog was found dead in the cargo compartment of Air India flight AI 676 on arrival at the Mumbai airport.

The dog's owner, Pratyusa Banerjee, and her family were taking their pet named Gultu, a Chow Chow breed, on June 11 to Mumbai for urgent eye surgery. Banerjee was travelling with her pet for the first time on a flight and was assured by the airline of safe delivery at the arrival.

Banerjee claims that there was a chance to save the dog had Air India officials been quicker in informing him about his condition on arrival at Mumbai airport. The lack of a veterinarian and medical aid for animals at the airport further aggravated the situation, Banerjee said.

"We landed in Mumbai at the international terminal. From there, we were misguided for about 1.5 hours...we went to international cargo...from there we got to know that we will get him from domestic cargo. It was raining heavily and my only fear was that they don't get my baby wet in the rain," Banerjee said while narrating the ordeal.

"There was a woman in the cargo office, we showed her the papers which were needed to release the dog and all she answered us kaunsa white wala kutta na? Wo to mar gaya," Banerjee recalled.

"We rushed to his cage, we opened him, his body was still warm," Banerjee said.

Immediately, Banerjee and her family took the dog to a hospital, where they were heartbroken to learn that had they reached the hospital 30 minutes earlier, there was a chance for Gultu's revival.

"The doctor told us that he collapsed 30-60 minutes before and if we had we reached 30 minutes ago he could have saved him with oxygen and cardiac injection," Banerjee said.

However, the airline denied any delay.

"Live cargo, like pets, are always delivered ahead of other cargo goods from the hold and this time also there was no exception or delay," an Air India spokesperson said.

Pratyusa and her family were travelling to Mumbai on a one-day notice for an eye surgery called entropion as the dog developed an ulcer on his cornea.

"We didn't have treatment for that in Kolkata so we had to take him to Mumbai on a one-day notice otherwise we would had taken him by car or train," Banerjee told CNBC-TV18.

"When we were on board the Air India flight at Kolkata airport, we could hear him bark from the flight during the cargo loading process...if he died in Kolkata itself why didn't they inform us there and then," Banerjee said while recalling events of the unfortunate day.

"All we had to give was the doctor certificate that he was fit to fly, vaccination paper. Before taking him to cargo, they asked us if he was active and if he was running, playing, etc. and we could see that he was very active and completely fit," Banerjee added.

17/06/21  Anu Sharma/CNBC TV18

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