WUHAN, June 13 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese airline is investigating the in-flight death of a dog that it had transported as cargo.
The case has cast further negative light on China Eastern Airlines just days after one of its flights made an emergency landing in Sydney due to a hole in an engine casing.
The dog was a three-year-old Golden Retriever named Doudou. Its owner had hired a pet transportation agency to send the animal from Shenzhen to Wuhan, where the owner's parents live.
China Eastern Airlines, the company chosen by the agent, transports live animals as freight in the cargo hold, not in the cabin with passengers.
"I told the agent to take extra care with Doudou because I had heard of cases of animals dying during flight," said the owner, surnamed Zuo.
When Zuo's father arrived at the airport to collect the dog, he found that the dog was dead.
"My father sent me photos. The bars of the cage were bent and covered with bite marks. It must have been in pain," said Zuo.
Zuo posted her complaint on social media which aroused heated discussion among the country's growing number of pet lovers.
"Was there a problem with the air-conditioning or oxygen in the cargo space?" one commenter asked.
"No one knows what exactly happened. The whole process was not properly supervised, nor transparent," said another commenter.
A spokesperson for China Eastern Airlines said Doudou and another dog were transported together in the flight's pressurized cargo space. When the plane arrived in Wuhan, Doudou appeared lifeless but the other dog was in a good condition.
The spokesperson said the airline will work with the pet transportation agency to determine the cause of Doudou's death, but that it refused to take responsibility as the agent had signed a form releasing the airline from liability.
The agency has offered compensation of 5,000 yuan (735 U.S. dollars) which Zuo has refused to accept.
Zuo has been advised to take the dispute to court.
People have posted warnings online telling pet owners to think twice about transporting their pets by air as it still involves a high level of risk.