Dear Ann: Break out the wet noodle for printing that letter from the "Animal Lover" who said a plane's cargo hold was no place for a pet. She said she wouldn't ship a cockroach in cargo.
I am a pilot for a major airline. At least one cargo hold in every plane is insulated, and the temperature and pressure are controlled. In most aircraft, that cargo compartment has the same ventilating system as the passenger compartment.
I have hauled tropical fish from the Orient, show dogs to Japan, and reptiles all over the United States. Since we charge for transporting animals, it is in our best interest to do a good job. Our baggage handlers are wonderful. I've seen them talk to dogs and cats before loading them, and checking for sufficient water. If you wish to carry a pet in the cabin, you must notify the airline ahead of time. Usually, there is a fee.
Most of us have pets of our own, and so we take good care of those in our charge. I've never had to take a pet off the airplane for drunkenness or unruly behavior, which is more than I can say for some passengers. Pilot in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Dear Pilot: Thanks for your cogent comments. If anyone knows that territory, it's the person in the cockpit. Keep reading for more:
Pembroke, Bermuda: When I moved here last year, my dog had to travel in cargo. She was diagnosed with cancer, and so I bring her back to Ohio for periodic veterinary visits. I always put a note on her cage, along with a photo and instructions for her care. I also put her blanket and several toys in the cage to comfort her. I researched the airlines thoroughly, and found that most take good care of animals. USAirways does the best job. One pilot actually reassured me over the sound system that my dog would be "just fine."
Seoul, South Korea: I recently transferred to South Korea, and brought along our three dogs. Both American Airlines and United were terrific. They were caring, concerned and gentle. The cargo hold is pressurized, and the lighting is perfect. The temperature is controlled, and the animals travel in total comfort.
Mashpee, Mass.: Many people are allergic to animals, especially when confined to the small space of a plane. Considering the cost of airfare these days, no one should have to sit next to a cat.
Orlando, Fla.: Every year, 2,500 of the top champion dogs appear in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. The majority of them are flown in. Do you think for one moment that any of the owners would risk their dogs' lives in airplanes if the cargo holds were not safe?
El Dorado, Kan.: Every year for the annual ARBA National Convention, hundreds of rabbits are shipped by air cargo, and I have never heard of one that was dead on arrival. The majority of us use Delta Airlines, which has been our official carrier for years. Their staff is experienced and especially caring.
Mesa, Ariz.: I moved from Minneapolis to Phoenix with two cats. My vet gave the cats a mild tranquilizer before the flight. I watched the baggage handlers with interest. They were gentle and kind. The cats suffered no trauma whatsoever.
Harrisburg, Pa.: We flew across the country last July with our beloved Labrador retriever. The travel attendants who loaded her checked the cage for safety, and made sure her water dish was filled and her crate lined with newspapers. While waiting for a connecting flight, we were paged because our dog had upset her water dish, and the baggage handlers were concerned that she would need more water. They even provided a leash so my husband could walk her. Howzat for service?