The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is investigating after thirty-eight dogs were found dead upon arrival to Toronto on a flight from Ukraine.
About 500 dogs had landed at Pearson International Airport last Saturday aboard a Ukraine International Airlines flight, according to the CFIA. Thirty-eight were found dead on arrival, and many others were dehydrated, weak or vomiting.
“CFIA officials are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident and will determine next steps once the investigation is complete,″ a spokesperson said in a statement.
CBC reported that since the CFIA’s investigation has come to light, videos from witnesses at a loading dock at Kyiv airport have been released. The videos show crates of dogs being loaded onto a plane headed for Toronto.
Witnesses told the National Post they could see the dogs visibly suffering and being stacked on top of each other, with two dogs to one crate, in extremely high temperatures. The CFIA said 500 dogs were on the flight.
Abby Lorenzen, a professional show dog handler, told CBC she was at the cargo area of the Toronto airport to pick up a different animal, when she saw what she described as a “nightmare.”
Lorenzen described seeing garbage cans filled with the bodies of dead puppies, according to the National Post.
The plane was filled mostly with French bulldogs, CBC reported. Animal welfare activists previously warned that the rising popularity and demand for French bulldogs would mean the rise of puppy mills — where the dogs are bred in large numbers and sold to new owners at too young of an age. Being sold off too young can bring an onslaught of health problems for bulldogs.
Ukrainian International Airlines is part of the International Air Transport Association, which has codes requiring dogs and other animals to travel in temperatures under 29.5 C.
In a Facebook post Friday, Ukraine International Airlines apologized for the “tragic loss of animal life″ on one of its flights. UIA did not address video footage from Kyiv in their statement.
Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, called on authorities to get to the bottom of how so many puppies were transported at such high temperatures, possibly in violation of industry animal safety standards.
“It raises a lot of questions. And I definitely think the Canadian public wants answers to these questions,” Aldworth said.
“Responsible airlines will not transport animals in extreme heat, because they know there is a risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and even suffocation.
“And I would question what airline has the capacity to put 500 dogs on one plane.”
Aldworth said the circumstances bear all the hallmarks of a puppy mill.
“My organization has been working for more than a decade to shut down puppy mills in Canada. And we are devastated to see that animals continue to be imported from equally horrific facilities and other parts of the world into this country,″ she said.
“People are looking for (pets) on the internet, they’re buying sight unseen, and they’re importing cruelty into this country when we have so much of it to deal with right here at home.″
The CFIA’s standards are rigorous, a spokesperson told the Canadian Press. According to the agency website, most imports of commercial dogs require permits and they require containers that are adequately sized to travel.
In a separate case, one Calgary family who bought a French bulldog through Kijiji, found that dog soon developed breathing problems, according to CTV News. A lot of bulldogs being bought online or through unverified sellers were traced back to Ukraine, CTV reported.
With files from Premila D’Sa
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