"Seven puppies died after flying in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet." That's from The Associated Press, which adds AA "said it contacted the shipper who put the puppies on a Tuesday morning flight from Tulsa, to Chicago, and is investigating further."
The Chicago Tribune writes investigators on Wednesday said they "were looking at factors ranging from heat stroke to carbon monoxide poisoning to pre-existing health problems in connection with a shipment of 14 puppies inside the cargo hold of an American Airlines MD-80 plane from Tulsa ... on Tuesday."
The flight was scheduled to leave Tulsa at 6:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday morning, but was delayed for about an hour because of storms in Chicago. AP writes that "as the plane sat on the tarmac in Tulsa, it was already 86 degrees before 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. [AA spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan] said cargo holds carrying animals are routinely kept between 50 and 70 degrees.
ABC News, which notes that the high temperature was forecast to surpass 100 degrees in Tulsa that day, says "loading the puppies appears to have violated the airline's policy for the safe travel of pets which states that 'pets cannot be accepted when the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit ... at any location on the itinerary.' "
The Tulsa World says the puppies -- being shipped in portable kennels -- were "taken from the cargo hold of the aircraft and placed in a holding area until they could be placed on connecting flights, Fagan said."
Fagan tells the World: "They were taken off the plane alive. As the animals were being transported to connecting gates, the baggage handlers became concerned because the dogs were looking lethargic. They were taken to a veterinarian." Seven of the 14 puppies ultimately died.
"We are very sorry to learn of the animals' death and will do all possible to ensure a similar incident doesn't ever occur again," AA spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan says in an e-mail to Chicago's CBS 2 on Wednesday morning. She added that the airline is waiting for the investigation to be completed before discussing additional details.
AP says "Fagan declined to identify the shipper or say whether American had taken animals from the same shipper before and, if so, whether there had been problems with any previous flights." She adds: "We don't disclose information about our shippers any more than we disclose information about our passengers."
The news comes just a month after the Department of Transportation issued a report detailing animal deaths on flights. In that report, the DOT say pug-nosed dogs appeared to face the greatest risk from being shipped as cargo. As for the latest incident, Fagan said she did not know what type of breed the puppies were.
Adam Goldfarb, director of the "Pets at Risk" program for the Humane Society of the United States, tells the Chicago Sun-Times that even though the risk of animals dying on flights is minimal, "it's not a great idea to ship your pet as cargo." He adds: "We're smack dab in August. It's really hot."
Carter Dillard, director of litigation at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, tells NBC Chicago he suggests people traveling with pets use animal-friendly carriers like Companion Air or Pet Airways.