The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released the most recent figures detailing how many pets died on commercial airline flights in 2013, and the numbers don't look good -- but they look better than numbers from the year before. In 2012, U.S. commercial carriers reported 29 pet deaths, 26 pet injuries and one lost pet; in 2013, those numbers were reduced to 21, 15, and six, respectively -- still incredibly high, given that while pets might be forced to travel by way of cargo hold, they are not pieces of luggage.
DOT does not record the number of pets that travel by air each year, but Jennifer Dohm, a United spokesperson, reported that approximately 120,000 animals took to the skies last year on United Airlines alone. "We know that for many of our customers their pets are like family," Dohm told Vocativ. "That's why we continue to find ways to improve our program and provide the best travel experience possible."
According to DOT's report, United Airlines performed worse than any other commercial carrier last year, with 9 dogs dying in their care -- 8 of whom arrived at their destinations deceased, and another who was hit by a car while a handler was taking her for a walk. Former United pet handlers have already called out the airline's PetSafe travel program for alleged negligence and danger to animals, but DOT has not moved to investigate United beyond current inspection standards. The department's new report, however, backs up whistleblowers' claims that the skies might not be as safe for pets as airlines claim.