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Beloved dog dies on flight from China; B.C. woman demands action from airline

Owner Monique Collette wants answers, changes to airline policy and an apology
Monique Collette with her two dogs Chocolate and Maverick. (Monique Collette photo)

This article contains subject matter some readers may find disturbing.

Monique Collette’s young golden retriever Maverick was loved by everyone who met him.

“Maverick was silly and goofy. He loved pets and he loved to play fetch with his ball or anything he’d find on the ground. That was his greatest joy,” Collette said.

She adopted her two dogs: Maverick and Chocolate while she worked teaching English in China. Collette said she’d take her dogs with her everywhere she went, even taking Maverick to class with her.

“I brought Maverick more often than Chocolate because he got along with the kids a lot more. I would always show my students pictures of where we went and what we did on the weekend.”

When the pandemic first began in China, Collette made the decision to return to Canada and sought out a professional pet mover to help bring Maverick and Chocolate home with her. She spent months working with the mover to find flights that could accommodate both dogs for the long trip.

In July 2020, the dogs flew first from Xinjiang to Guangzhou. When they landed the pet mover messaged Collette with photos and videos of the dogs playing happily outside. But on a July 25 flight from Guangzhou to Vancouver, Maverick was pronounced dead on arrival.

“It didn’t just break my heart when he passed away. A lot of hearts were broken,” Collette said.

Collete’s mother, Dorice Bastarache waited for hours to pick up the dogs from their flight before being told that Chocolate had made it but Maverick did not.

“They told us Maverick would be considered abandoned cargo if we didn’t come to pick him up the next day.”

Canada Border Service agents advised the company, China Southern Airlines to perform a necropsy to determine Maverick’s cause of death and have him cremated. But the airline did neither. Instead, Bastarache and a family friend had to transport Maverick’s body to a veterinary clinic.

A necropsy found that Maverick suffered brain hemorrhaging and a heart attack during the flight. His crate was heavily damaged and showed signs that he was trying to get out before he died. There was blood splattered all over the inside entrance to the crate and Maverick was found to have damage to his teeth and paws from trying to escape.

Maverick’s crate was badly damaged from him trying to escape during the flight. (Submitted photo)
Maverick’s crate was badly damaged from him trying to escape during the flight. (Submitted photo)

Collette said China Southern Airlines has not responded to her questions about Maverick’s treatment, taken any action, or issued any apology. She retained animal law lawyer Rebeka Breder to help bring the airline to account.

“We should have zero tolerance for any death of a companion animal or any animal on an airline,” Breder said.“We suspect either the air pressure or the temperature — or both — were not adequate and that’s what led to Maverick dying.”

Temperatures at that time of year were quite high and Breder said other airlines were not transporting animals on the same day Maverick and Chocolate were transported. Breder said the International Air Transport Association recommends against transporting animals in extreme temperatures. China Southern Airlines is a member of the association.

Maverick was only two and a half years old at the time and was healthy prior to the flight.

Breder and Collette issued a letter demanding $35,000 in compensation for costs as well as pain and suffering. The airline has not responded to their letter.

“What we ultimately care about is we want to see a sincere apology and assurance that something like this will never happen again. I want to see proof they’re taking this seriously. I want to see protocols in place as well as a written policy that mandates all staff who handle animals on a flight, before and after a flight, are trained on policies dealing with the transportation of animals,” Breder said.

Black Press reached out to China Southern Airlines for comment, but the company has not responded.

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