More than 1,000 birds, cats die after being left in 60 deg C heat at Taiwan's Taoyuan airport

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwanese authorities are investigating after more than 1,000 birds, two cats and a dog died of heat exhaustion from being left in a container on an airport apron in baking temperatures for two hours.

The animals, including 1,000 baby lovebirds, destined for Malaysia were found dead after they were left in a container without air holes at Taoyuan International airport near Taipei Thursday (Aug 4) morning two hours prior to take-off, officials said on Friday.

Two dogs were found alive and were being treated for heat exhaustion, said the Taoyuan city government's office of animal care and control which is in charge of the investigation.

Taoyuan International Airport Services Co. issued an apology earlier Friday, calling the mishap an "isolated incident" and promising that the personnel who mishandled the animals will be punished.

Officials of the ground handling service could face up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of NT$1 million (S$42,558) if they were found to have deliberately caused the death of the animals, the agency said Friday.

Local media said ground temperatures on the apron could reach more than 60 deg C.

According to the airport's standard operating procedure, animals should be transported to the apron 30 minutes before takeoff in containers with air holes and should immediately board the plane.

Animal rights advocates demanded tougher laws on animal transportation to prevent similar incidents from happening.

"Apparently the company's staff didn't consider the lives of the animals and left them outdoor for hours in this hot weather," said Chen Yu-min, director of Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan.

"This incident should never have happened and we need stricter regulations and proper training for transportation of animals to prevent this."