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Canadian Regulators Move To Investigate Animals Found Dead On Flight From Ukraine

A Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

A horrifying sight welcomed ground staff that met Ukraine International Airlines flight PS241 at Toronto International Airport on June 13. The flight was coming from Boryspil Airport in Kyiv, Ukraine, and was carrying over 500 live puppies in its cargo hold. On arrival in Canada, 38 of those puppies were found dead, while many others were suffering dehydration and were seriously ill, reports Canadian news outlet CBC.

News of the flight broke late last week, and authorities recently announced it would launch a full-blown investigation to determine how what is largely expected to reveal a huge illegal smuggling operation continued to take place under the noses of customs officers and airline officials, alike. The Canadia Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is handling the matter and “will determine the next steps once the investigation is completed”, a spokesperson said in a statement reported by the Toronto Sun.

The live animals carried on the flight were French bulldog puppies and were destined to be sold on the Canadian market. The puppy trade is a very lucrative business in Canada, and most of the animals come from Eastern Europe. Those dogs can be sold through classified ads on websites for up to 5,000 Canadian dollars ($3,680) each.

Abby Lorenzen, a professional show dog handler, happened to be at the airport when the flight arrived and the “cargo” was handled and described on her Facebook page the “horror show” that was presented to her.

“There were 572 live animals, one broker alone brought in 32 French puppies, two to a crate,” Lorenzen said. She said that people in the area could clearly hear all the animals screaming, and she also said that one of the receivers who was supposed to take the animals in charge, told some of the cargo staff to “throw them into the garbage bin,” as they were too sick after the long flight to be sold.

Lorenzen reported six or seven Canada Border and Service Agency (CBSA) agents being very surprised at the number of live animals on this flight, which they said was extremely unusual. There were also four veterinarians from the CFIA to evaluate the health status of the animals as well as their paperwork to determine their eligibility to enter the country.

Videos coming from Kyiv show all the crates stacked on top of each other at Boryspil Airport before they were loaded onto the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft that performed the almost 10-hour flight to Toronto.

What Was the Airline’s Role?

Ukraine International Airlines is a member of IATA and as such is supposed to adhere to a voluntary code of conduct that should protect the well-being of live animals carried in the belly hold of aircraft. Most Canadian carriers only allow two animal crates to be carried per flight and do prohibit the carriage when the temperature exceeds 29.5 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit).

Reports suggest that those puppies were loaded onto the aircraft with neither food nor water for a journey that could exceed 12 hours when all pre-flight and post-flight procedures are taken into account.

Ukraine International Airline published a statement on its Facebook page apologizing for the incident: “Everyone at UIA offers its condolences for the tragic loss of animal life on our flight. UIA is working with local authorities to determine what happened and to make any changes necessary to prevent such a situation from occurring again.” In less than 48 hours, over 300 people posted a host of mostly angry comments responding to the statement.

Vanni Gibertini


  • Vanni Gibertini

    Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.

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