Pets on planes; Travel dangers

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OKLAHOMA CITY - "Molly" is an international traveler. France, Russia, Germany, this 12-year-old dog has more frequent flyer miles than most people.

Owner Grace Crowder said, "I was terrified the first time they took her from me and I cried, 'That's my baby, my child.'"

Other than a minor eye injury, there has never been a problem until recently, when Grace and her Lhasa Apso were turned away at the gate.

Crowder said, "We were standing in line and they came up and said we can't take our dog and I said you have to. 'No, we can't.' The pets that were on board were dead."

Dead, injured and even lost pets; it happens more frequently than you might imagine.

We pulled figures from the Department of Transportation.

Over an 18-month period, nearly 100 pets were killed, injured or lost.

Delta and Alaska Airlines had the most reported incidents.

Veterinarian Jennifer Bianchi said, "We see a lot of injuries or death because they are panting too much, they are hot. They have a heat stroke and die."

Bianchi said air travel is traumatic for most animals but especially those problematic,  with pushed up noses with inherent breathing issues.

"Debi" is a former flight attendant and ticket agent for a major air carrier.

She told us, "That's a member of the family. They are not going to be treated the way we want them treated."

Knowing what she knows, "Debi" said she would never put her beloved furry companions in the cargo holds of commercial airlines.

"Once you turn your pet over to the airline, they are handled by the baggage handlers, put in those carts. They are taken on the tarmac to the cargo hold. They are luggage at that point."

We placed a hidden camera inside an dog carrier and flew to Las Vegas and back to see how well it would be handled.

It barrel rolled down the conveyor belt. 

In fact, the crate rattled around so much, the camera died before it even made it to the plane.

Bianchi said, "Have you seen your luggage when it gets back? I see my luggage when it gets back and my luggage has gotten lost on a non-stop flight. So when I know my bags can't make it from here to Dallas on a non-stop flight, I'm really reluctant to put my pet on a plane."

If you`re a pet owner, you should know that The Humane Society of the United States often receives complaints of animals in airplane cargo areas dying or suffering from injuries, "because of excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, scarcity of oxygen and rough handling."

The horror stories travel quickly and they are a sobering reminder for Grace, that flying her "baby" in the cargo hold is a risk no longer worth taking.