Saturday, March 26, 2011

How and Why I Died.

After an exciting and arduous 2010 making our new movie, Belinda, Jon and I decided to go live in Berlin. We engaged the services of Sydney based Animal Travel to organise and oversee my trip to Germany. Run by Ken and Narelle Hammond, they came highly recommended within the French Bulldog community and advertise themselves as the "Veterinary Qualified Animal Travel Specialists making International Animal Travel easy for your Very Important Pet...[our] charter is to provide professional, competent and caring pet transportation relocation services...we care about your pets as if they were our own and their safety and comfort is always our highest priority." These services are offered for a substantial fee, in my case $2297.00.

I had my blood tests, vaccinations and health checks through Dec/Jan and was happy, fit and ready when I was collected by Ken Hammond from Kings Cross at 8.50am on Tues 1st Feb 2011. Belinda had been in Berlin for a week setting up our new home, and Jon and I were on the same Malaysia Airlines flight (MH122/MH6 from Sydney to Germany) departing 3.40pm. Jon gave me a hug and put me in my IATA approved travel crate with my favourite toy. With reassuring words - "don't worry, we'll look after him" - Ken Hammond drove me to Matraville Veterinary Hospital for the stringent final export health check. A certificate was issued approving me fit and healthy for travel.

MASkargo are the cargo arm of Malaysia Airlines and promote themselves as caring and responsible animal shippers - they even boast the world's only 6-Star Animal Hotel that I was to transit through at Kuala Lumpur! At around 12.30pm Ken Hammond delivered me to MASkargo at Sydney Airport. My crate was placed on the hot cement floor of the cargo shed and left unattended. Contrary to assurances from Animal Travel and MASkargo, there was NO supervision, NO special care and NO air-conditioning - it was an area for inanimate cargo. It was a hot day in Sydney and this heat was amplified in the cargo shed. Before long I was starting to show symptoms of heat stress, but no-one cared to notice. This escalated into full blown heat stroke - vomiting, diarrohea, choking, suffocation - and I died a terrible, cruel and lonely death in the confines of my travel cage. When it came time to transit to the plane, MASkargo staff finally noticed that something was wrong. Realising it was obviously heat related, they threw a bucket of water over me in my cage - but I was already dead. Ken Hammond was contacted and returned to collect my body. No-one at MASkargo had even bothered to take me out of my travel cage during all this.

Jon was literally in the queue boarding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH122 when at 3.20pm he received a missed-call message saying there was an "emergency with your dog". He refused to board the flight, returned the call to MASkargo and was told I was dead. He called Ken Hammond who was already enroute to collect my body. They arranged to meet-up so Jon could see me.  Jon's baggage was removed from the plane and he was escorted through customs and re-admitted into Australia. While Jon waited for Ken Hammond outside International Arrivals, Miguel Rabanal from MASkargo called to offer his condolences. He was unable to explain what had happened, but suggested that maybe I'd "choked on a piece of kibble".

Ken Hammond arrived at 4pm. Jon took my body from the travel crate and nursed me in the back of the Animal Travel van while Ken Hammond drove to Matraville Veterinary Hospital. I was soaked with water and covered in vomit and diarrohea. My gums were dry and my body was stiff - but I was still very hot. Ken Hammond and Jon were in complete and unambiguous agreement that I had obviously died of heat stroke. Ken Hammond also freely admitted that he and Animal Travel had failed in their duty of care to us - admitting that they had no idea what conditions were like at MASkargo - they had never been past the delivery counter! Animal Travel's advertised and verbal assurances of a fully checked, responsible, caring and safe International pet-transit from door to door were a lie.

We couldn't have an autopsy because we were told this would take about 10 days and we urgently needed to get to Berlin - Belinda was all alone in a foreign country dealing with the most shocking and heartbreaking experience of her life - and Jon was not going to leave Australia without me.

Cremation was expedited through Petrest. The next day  Jon asked to inspect the place where I died but was refused by MASkargo and Animal Travel. He also contacted NSW RSPCA and was told by the duty officer that they couldn't pursue anything without an autopsy confirming cause of death. My ashes were delivered C.O.D at 11am on Thurs 3rd Feb in a package the size of a tennis ball and Jon and I made the 3.40pm Malaysia Airlines flight that afternoon. As we were checking-in, a Malaysia Airlines representative approached Jon with his condolences and offered us free use of the Malaysia Airlines departure lounge.

Jon and Belinda are now in Berlin struggling to cope, their dreams of a new life shattered. MASkargo and Malaysia Airlines have REFUSED to explain what happened, REFUSED to accept responsibility and REFUSED to officially apologise - correspondence of 10 Feb 2011 stating that "a representative from Malaysian Airlines is looking into the matter." They have not been heard from since.

Animal Travel have REFUSED to accept any responsibility for my death, Ken Hammond writing "I’m upset by the ‘death whilst in your care’ heading on your email, Kransky was fine when I lodged him for the flight". He has also REFUSED to explain what happened, and REFUSED to sign a statutory declaration that I died of heat stroke. His last contact was 8 Feb 2011. Animal Travel have also neglected to report my death to the RSPCA, DOGS NSW, Animal Welfare League or any of the other organisations displayed on their website.

In short - Animal Travel, MASkargo and Malaysia Airlines are trying to pretend that my death never happened. Jon and Belinda are pursuing further investigation through the RSPCA. They are also pursuing a refund of the thousands of dollars paid upfront to Animal Travel through the CTTT.

In 2005 the wonderful Clover Moore along with the awesome Kings Cross based authors and dog lovers Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra awarded me "Best Dog" at the Kings Cross Dog Show.

How many other animals die in transit like me every year? We have all heard terrible stories, but there are no public records kept or statistics compiled. Please email animal lover and defender Clover Moore and urge her to call for an investigation into the largely un-regulated/self-regulated pet transport industry. It's too late for me, but perhaps we can prevent the cruel and negligent death of other precious pets.

My last photo, taken the day of my death, cooling off in the early morning waters of Rushcutters Bay.

Contact Jon Hewitt.


  1. unbelievable. That company says on the website that they personally handle the animals. ???
    how are they not accountable? gobsmacking..

  2. Tears are pouring down my face as I read this. As a pet owner I am appalled. I am so sorry this happened to you. My heart goes out to you both.

  3. RIP Kransky. I've already signed the petition. xxx John

  4. So sorry to hear of this terrible news, we too have suffered at the hands of unprofessional and heartless people. Have signed your petition. Keep on doing it for every other doggie that may have to fly with them!!

  5. From a petition signee
    We were moving from the Gold Coast to Melbourne, and after driving the dogs up a year earlier, we thought it would stress them less to pop them on the same plane as us and take them back to Melbourne that way.

    I spoke to a well-known and "reputable" pet transport company numerous times in the month leading up to the move...I even drove hundreds of miles the week before to 'try out' a cage for my Malamute because I wanted to make sure she would fit comfortably and that it was secure. I went to their offices and we tried her in a large wire cage. It was very sturdy, and she had room to turn around, and did not have to stoop her head to fit in properly. She is a giant breed dog, with a heavy fur coat in a tropical climate. Of course I wanted to be sure she would be comfortable.

    The day came and we made our way to the airport with our Malamute and Labrador. When we arrived, they had two plastic crates waiting (think a cat crate, but bigger). They put our Malamute in one of them, and I expressed concern about it, asking if this was temporary. The kid said no. I said, these dogs can move a ton. There is no way she will remain contained in a plastic cage. He replied that he would put some cable ties on it to secure it. I was pretty stressed out by now. My animals are my babies. I let him take them at my husband's insistance. We then went to the waiting area at Cooloongatta, and watched our dogs sit on the boiling hot tarmac, next to the plane, in their crates for the next hour! Right in the sun! Four times, I went and complained to the airline staff, and then I got angry when nothing was done, and insisted they move the dogs into the shade immediately. They did this, but the poor things were still out in the heat! We could clearly see them moving about in their crates, not comfortable at all.

    Eventually they were moved into the airplane cargo area. We were boarded. Throughout the flight I occassionally heard my labrador barking frantically. I hoped it was just that he was scared of the noises.

    When we landed, I was soon to find out that wasn't the case. I was called over the loudspeaker when I was walking through the airport, and was escorted by a man with a gun to the tarmac - they told me my dog was out of her cage and running loose in the cargo bay of the plane. They explained to me that if the dog escaped onto the tarmac they would have to shoot my dog to prevent any possible aircraft accidents, etc. By this time I was freaking-out. My dogs were really well trained, but a guy standing there with a gun freaked me out a lot.

    They opened the hatch, and my Malamute's big boof head poked out at me. I quickly grabbed her and put her into a new cage, she had completely torn the door off the stupid plastic crate. There was drool and dog fur all over every single suitcase in the place, and she was highly aggitated. My labrador was besides himself, and couldnt stop shaking, although he was still contained, thankfully.

    At no stage was I offered any monies back, an apology, nothing! I spent thousands of dollars with this company, and they couldnt even give me the correct cage that I had paid for, or the courtesy of an apology when my dog could have died.... I will NEVER bring an animal on a plane again! EVER!

  6. Im shocked and tears are falling this should never have happened. Something must be done about it, neglect is a crime !

  7. wow this really upsets me. Im so sorry for the loss of your baby... I don't think I will ever trust a company with my dogs, not after hearing these stories :'(

    Tragic story - this happens time and time again and is never reported. Now is the time to do something! We have a dog that was flown from Tasmania to Sydney as a 12 week old puppy. When we collected her she and her cage were completely soaked - it have been left in the rain! This is nothing compared to what happened to Kransky but shows that the lack of care and supervision is evident throughout the airlines and animal transport companies

  9. The blog is incorrect on many many levels and it would be in your best interest to remove any reference to the blog

    You may or may not be aware but this was a Brachycephalic breed and high risk.

    The owner selfishly refused to take our professional advice to leave the dog at home as he was only taking the dog for a 6 month holiday and as you may not be aware it is not as easy as taking your dog on a flight and flying it to a Category 4 country and then flying it back and picking it up from the airport. Lot more to it than that but most people do not realise that

    The owner signed all the necessary documents and waivers with the total understanding that the dog was a very high risk as it was an old dog for the breed

    The dog along with 2 other pets were prepared and processed normally for international travel by us and the airline and the other pets arrived at their destinations without incident

    One has to question why the owner refused point blank to have an autopsy done when 3 AQIS accredited vets urged him strongly to do so as there are many reasons how this incident could have happened

    The owner has taken our company to court and the case was dismissed once the CTT footage was viewed as it was clear that our company was not at fault in the incident and the owner was so quick to get rid of any evidence

    The owner is now being investigated by the police for threatening the airline

    We have shipped many brachycpehalic breeds overseas before and since that time without issue and Animal Travel has been in operation since 1984 and this is the first incident of this kind we have ever been involved in so our record speaks for itself

  10. My name is Tim Stinson. In 2008, after having spent over a year living in England, I decided to fly my 2 year old French Bulldog, Washington, over to live with me. It had been a very hard year without him already, but he had been completing his mandatory quaranteen period in Sydney and was living on a a French Bulldog farm and being well looked after.

    I employed a company called Animal Travel (please see the blog directly above here, and please note their last comments), to handle the transportation of Washington to the UK in September.

    I was very aware of the risks of flying a French Bulldog to England, and due to this made sure that I got the best advice from my vet, Karen Hedburg (also breeder of Frenchies), and that I was using the best Animal Travel Company available to do this. I payed AT over $3500 to handle the travel of Washington and spoke to the Hammond's the day before Washington's flight. During this phone call and every one before I had there assurance that no dog in their care had ever suffered in travel and that the transportation companies they had employed, were of the best, and understood the specific needs of Washington.

    The next day I caught the train to Heathrow airport to pick my little man up. Unfortunately I was by myself as my partner was working, but my excitement about seeing Washington after so long easily sufficed. I tried to ring the airport as soon as his flight landed to make sure he got off safely. I was told that someone would call me back and soon i received a voicemail whilst on the station platform that said something had gone wrong during the flight.

    I immediately called back only to hear that Washington had died during the flight. Alone and in public I had to receive the worst news i had ever received and it will be a moment i will never forget.

    At the airport, later that day, I saw Washington to say goodbye and was told by the staff at the airport that this was simply an unlucky event, and that in the 6 years of working there they had only seen a 8 dogs die, all being French Bulldogs. They also suggested that an autopsy would be pointless and said they would handle the cremation and the cost involved.

    My father then spent the next few months trying to find some accountability from one of the companies that were involved in the travel. None of the airline or transportation companies would take accountability without proof of the medical state of Washington before and after the flight, proof I had assumed was attained by AT before Washington's flight but could not find. AT spoke to my father (never once did they return my phone calls) the day this happened but any assistance, explanation or compensation from the company that not only assured us Washington was going to be fine, but that also employed obviously inept animal transportation companies to handle him, never came.

    I would like anyone reading this now to read the previous blog, and highlight the last few lines. AT know full well of Washington's death in 2008 and have been seen here to not only tell everyone they didn't, but worse, it is obvious now, that with full knowledge of Washington only 3 years ago, AT had given Kransky's owners the same assurance they gave me.

    I can only be suggested that the Hammond's and their company Animal Travel are a devious, money-hungry, untrustworthy and unethical couple that are providing clients with false information and security in order to take their money and decline any accountability when things go wrong.

    Washington was only 2 and the best thing I have ever owned or known and I miss him everyday still. This company disgusts me and I urge anybody who sees this blog to post it to your friends or anyone you know in the French Bulldog community. We need to make sure no more dogs fly under the care of these people, for the pain caused by them does not need to go any further.

  11. So Narelle and Ken Hammond at Animal Travel........anything more to say?

  12. As a dog owner and lover I will certainly be doing all I can to ensure that the names of Narelle and Ken Hammond and how they operate at Animal Travel are visable to all, before another yet another owner puts there beloved animal into their hands. No animal or owner should ever have to go through the pain and distress I witnessed with Tim Stinson on the day that Washington died.

  13. It's obvious that anybody can offer anything as a service, take your money, and yet have absolutely no accountability. As unfortunate as that may be when it comes to lost luggage or whatever, these were beloved living creatures that suffered and died with none of the care, help or supervision promised.
    They MUST be held accountable.

  14. And, regards, "You may or may not be aware but this was a Brachycephalic breed and high risk".
    Of course you were aware of that, as were they. But they assured you they could deal with that, and had handled similar animals without a problem (a total lie, as it turns out) and that's why you employed them. That's their job.
    Knowing that, why was a small lonely dog, who'd never spent more than an hour or so away from his owners, left on the tarmac, in a cage, in 40+ heat, with no supervision? Let alone air con or fresh water.

  15. Anonymous said...
    This is a heartbreaking story and I have no doubt that the companies providing a supposed service were negligent. These companies need to be made accountable and learn from these terrible mistakes. When anonymous writes
    "We have shipped many brachycpehalic breeds overseas before and since that time without issue and Animal Travel has been in operation since 1984 and this is the first incident of this kind we have ever been involved in so our record speaks for itself"

  16. Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The French Bulldog Community? Our members will love it.
    Members include: Owners, Breeders and Lovers
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website… it’s a win win. You can also add Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like. It’s free and easy.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The French Bulldog Community:
    James Kaufman, Editor

    Thank you for sharing... so sad.

  17. It's. just. a. fucking. dog. Get over it. Sorry it happened. But these things happen every day. Companies that are most likely horrendously busy to stop and start at you're fucking dead dogs discretion. Get a new pup and stop complaining PLEASE!

  18. To the person who wrote the last comment: You should be deeply ashamed of yourself! That's all I have to say, to such a coldhearted person like you.

    What happened to Kranksy is horrible and I hope that a lot of people see this Blog and know his story.
    We too, have a French bulldog and after talking to Kransky's parents I would like to share this link with you all.
    I know that there are still good people out there and it would mean so much to our family, if you consider helping us.

    Thank you, Miriam.

  19. very sorry for your loss won't every put my frenchy in a storage area ever

  20. So sorry to hear this and for your loss. We are planning a trip for our french bulldog next year for our move to Canada from Sweden. Do you have any recommendations for the best airline or trustworthy service we can do this?

  21. Pretty awful to hear re Kransky and Washington. Frenchies are super special companions that aren't easily replaced by another pup. I will never board my little frenchie on a flight after reading this.....

  22. I am trying to get my 1.5 year old Frenchie (the best dog ever!!) from Taiwan to New Zealand and have been told that no commercial airlines will take Frenchies in the cargo hold, but at the same time New Zealand won't allow dogs to enter the country through in-cabin flight. He's my family and I want to do everything I can to get him home, but reading all of these messages.. I'm starting to think whether the best thing for his health and wellbeing is for him not to fly at all...?!?! :( :( :( :( :(

  23. So so sad. So sorry for your loss. We had a similar experience with Alaska Airlines when we flew to Ixtapa. Our dog barely survived and no one cared or apologized. We will never fly with our dog again unless she is in the cabin with us.

  24. Is it Malaysian Airlines though? I don't think its the airlines fault, its the airports, and the animal handling group. I took my six cats from Melbourne to Perth, Never again. Its the whole procedure…..that their treated as luggage. My cats were expected to be at the airport TWO HOURS before take off….I had to take them to a huge warehouse to drop them off, where they were left in cages on a bench with suitcases with trucks and everything hovering around them….It was horrendous leaving them as I checked in,,,,about an hour before boarding, I looked out to onto the tarmac and saw them going across this huge airport on a little luggage trolley thing they drive around, no car or van, but on the back of a Fking trolley….I was beside myself…I got on the plane an hour later, and I looked out the window, and there they were still on the trolley, in the rain!!!! outside a huge aeroplane with its engine running the whole time…..Finally about 40 minutes later they were loaded in along with all the bags….I sweated for four hours on the plane…when I got off, I had to wait an agonising 30 minutes to get to them in the luggage pick up area over in some shed with all the packages. disgusting treatment of the animals, I think its the fault of animal welfare laws in the country, not the airline, and those animal transport people do nothing but drive them to the airport,,,its all they do!

  25. Is your dog positive for discoid lupus? Snout Soother provides protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Completely safe and natural. discoid lupus in dogs

  26. Im no expert, but I believe you just made an excellent point. You certainly fully understand what youre speaking about, and I can truly get behind that. check my site about the Mastiff

  27. I don t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site. Who makes pure balance dog food