SINGAPORE - Singapore Airlines (SIA) is investigating an incident in which a pet dog died while being transferred to one of its aircraft at Changi Airport on Sept 2, amid claims that the airline was negligent in its handling of the dog.
The dog's owner, Ms Shabana Mary Kuruvilla, recounted her experience in a Facebook post - which has had over 1,000 shares since last Thursday.
SIA confirmed the incident with The Straits Times last Friday, and said the dog - a four-year-and-seven-month-old American cocker spaniel named Charlie - belonged to passengers who had travelled on flight SQ184 from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City.
"We are conducting an investigation and for privacy purposes, we are unable to share further details. We wish to express our sincere condolences to the owners at this time," it added.
In her post, Ms Shabana - who is in the midst of relocating to Vietnam with her family - said the plan was to take Charlie to Ho Chi Minh City. According to her, Charlie's crate was handled by SIA's pet handling staff as they were checking in their baggage.
SIA's pet policy on its website states that pets, with the exception of medically certified service dogs, are not permitted to travel in aircraft cabins. Cats and certain breeds of dogs are allowed as checked baggage.
However, upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, Ms Shabana was informed by SIA staff that Charlie had died. She was also shocked to learn that the dog did not board the flight but had died in Singapore, despite an earlier announcement by the pilot that Charlie was on board.
Ms Shabana and her husband then took the next flight back to Singapore on the same day to collect Charlie's body.
She noted that there was "evidence of a big struggle" in Charlie's cage, indicating that it was distressed. The dog had also suffered an injury on its paw and had chewed up an entire pee pad made of cotton.
It was believed to have suffered a heart attack due to the stress.
Alleging that the airline had been negligent in its handling of Charlie, Ms Shabana said staff informed her at the boarding gate that Charlie was a bit anxious and had some mucus, and asked if she wanted to see it.
But she declined as she thought that was a normal thing for a dog and did not want to make it more anxious. "They never told us that our dog was severely distressed," she added.
Ms Shabana also criticised SIA staff for its poor customer service, and claimed that she has filed a police report.
Responding to The Straits Times via Facebook messages on Monday, Ms Shabana said that SIA has told her that it was investigating the matter.
"I want the airline to take this incident seriously as it clearly handled the matter in an insensitive manner," she said.
"I am hoping this incident helps the airline make changes to the way pets are handled to ensure more safety for pets."