Mars, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever lost her life due to negligence of China Southern Airline last year.
Chinese boycott China Southern airline after mysterious death of dog
The anger directed at Asia’s largest airline after it agrees to pay compensation “per kilogram” is latest signal of China’s budding animal welfare movement.
On the morning of October 10, a high-profile lawsuit against China Southern, one of China’s “big three” airlines, opened at Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. The plaintiffs? Zhao Nan and Chen Lei, a couple from Tianjin, north China, who blame the airline for the death of their golden retriever, Mars. The airline has refused to apologise.
One night in early August, Zhao took the late-night China Southern flight CZ6993 from Xining city in the far west of China to Beijing. Mars travelled in the hold, in a special dog crate. But at 6.30 the next morning, on arrival in Beijing, Zhao was told that the crate had broken open and Mars was missing.
Thirty-six hours later, the company told Zhao that the dog’s body had been found. Mars was dead, and there were traces of blood around its mouth.
Not only did the airline fail to apologise for the incident, but it also refused to disclose the full facts surrounding the dog’s death.
After days of failing to get more information from the company, Zhao decided she had been left with no choice but to sue. Soon afterwards, almost 100 animal-welfare groups signed an open letter to China Southern and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), calling for the industry to end barbaric transportation practices and respect the lives and property of their passengers.
Mars the dog goes missing
“Take care, stay safe”Before boarding her flight on August 5, Zhao posted those words on her microblog, attaching a picture of Mars in the dog crate. Zhao was already nervous. “I’m not doing this again,” she told a friend. “It’s too upsetting.”“Our family spent three happy years together, until this nightmare…” Zhao later wrote on her microblog. She said Mars had been an obedient, clean and pampered dog, and always well-behaved.
The previous week, Zhao took Mars to Qinghai province in western China. “When she saw the wide golden fields and the blue colours of Qinghai Lake she and July [another dog] ran madly about the grasslands,” Zhao recalled.
But on August 5, it was time to go home. After the plane landed at Beijing Capital Airport’s second terminal, July’s crate soon appeared at the oversized luggage counter. But one of the straps was missing and the door was open. Fortunately, July was still inside. But there was no sign of Mars’ crate.
Worried, Zhao went to ask at the China Southern desk, where she was told that the crate had been damaged just before it arrived at the oversized luggage counter, the dog had run off into the airport and hadn’t been found yet.
“I begged them to let me go in and look, but they refused,” said Zhao. “I asked them to go and look for me, but they refused that too and got impatient with me.” With no better option, Zhao had to walk along the edge of the airport security barriers, calling for Mars. She said she understood that a dog loose in the airport potentially posed a danger to the many flights landing and taking off and that the airport staff should shoot Mars if they had to, but begged them to try to keep her alive.
At 9am, Zhao was taken inside the airport perimeter to call for Mars, but two hours later there was still no sign. That was the last time Zhao was allowed in. That evening Zhao and friends made flyers offering a reward and handed them out to China Southern staff, baggage handlers and airport cleaners.
On the evening of August 6, Zhao posted a missing dog notice on her microblog. Dog lovers quickly passed the message on – it was reposted 1,300 times.
The following morning, Zhao was informed that Mars had been seen at 3am near an airport gate. But she had fled before anyone could catch her.Shortly after midnight, China Southern staff told Zhao a dog had been found, but that they couldn’t be sure it was Mars. Shortly afterwards, airport staff drove Zhao’s husband to the Terminal 3 offices. There in the sunlight, Mars was lying dead on the back of a truck, with traces of blood around her mouth. According to a member of China Southern staff, the dog had been alive when they netted her. But then she collapsed, went into spasms, coughed up blood and died within two minutes. She had been found at 9.20am. “I just want to know two things,” said Zhao. “One, how did the crate break open? If that hadn’t happened, Mars wouldn’t have run off and she would still be alive. Two, why didn’t the airport tell me immediately they had found her, and how did they actually find her?” Thirty-six strange hours
Mars went missing at dawn on August 6, and her owners were told to collect the body at midnight the next day. So what actually happened in those 36 hours? According to the family’s lawyer, Cai Chunhong, China Southern has said there is no way to identify the cause of the problems because there is “no camera coverage of the baggage department” and there was no trace of the dog found on airport cameras. The company also said it could pay compensation, but not apologise or explain the truth of how the dog died.
On August 11, a microblogger with the name “China Southern Staff” wrote: “I’m a dog lover, but I work for China Southern and so I can’t say who I am as I need to provide for my family. But here I can say, for the sake of my conscience, that the dog was beaten to death by China Southern employees.”
This reporter found a microblog of that name on Sina’s Weibo, but on trying to open it was told there was a problem with the account. Another microblogger wrote: “A China Southern employee has said that the two crates were taken by baggage truck to the oversized luggage desk. July’s crate was underneath Mars. Just before they arrived, the crate Mars was in fell about a meter and burst open. Mars ran off.” On the evening of August 9, Zhao again went to see China Southern. “They asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted to see all their footage from the moment of landing to when Mars died. But they said there wasn’t any. Mars was within Beijing Airport’s security for over 30 hours, and went missing at T2 and was found at T3 – yet there’s not one bit of footage?” “If they can’t monitor passengers’ luggage or unusual situations, people will worry about the safety of passengers and their property,” said Cai Chunhong. Zhao has said that any compensation will be donated to animal welfare groups, or used as a legal fighting fund for animal rights, so that other pets and their owners won’t suffer in the same way. According to a member of China Southern staff, the dog had been alive when they netted her. But then she collapsed, went into spasms, coughed up blood and died within two minutes. She had been found at 9.20am.
“I just want to know two things,” said Zhao. “One, how did the crate break open? If that hadn’t happened, Mars wouldn’t have run off and she would still be alive. Two, why didn’t the airport tell me immediately they had found her, and how did they actually find her?”
Compensation “per kilogram” of dogIn court, China Southern agreed to pay statutory compensation: 100 yuan (US$16) per kilogram for the golden retriever and crate. That was the first official statement on the case from the airline.
Cai, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said that China Southern had failed to fulfil its obligations in the transportation of the dog, resulting in its death. During the 36 hours in which the dog was missing, China Southern and the airport failed to minimise losses, and this neglect and lack of concern for life led directly to the dog’s death, Cai said.
Zhao is asking for 100,000 yuan (US$15,900) in compensation for the loss of her dog, and around 20,600 yuan (US$3,300) in lost earnings, transportation, food, accommodation and communication costs, 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) in emotional damages, and an acceptable apology for the company’s mistakes. She also wants an explanation, supported by evidence, of how the dog died. The court has not yet handed down its judgement.
In its pleadings, China Southern’s defense team said: “After the fact, the defendant learned that golden retrievers are susceptible to heat. After running around outside, the dog may have been exhausted or even suffered heatstroke. It may have gone into cardiac arrest when it saw people trying to catch it.”
The plaintiff submitted an autopsy report to the court, carried out by Beijing Andong Animal Hospital. The report concluded that Mars “was suffering from breathing difficulties at the time of death, and heart failure may have resulted from terror or other stimuli.” It concluded: “It is likely heart failure was the cause of death.
This reporter noted that at no point in its defense did China Southern apologize for its behaviour or mistakes.
From the afternoon the court case opened, China Southern worked frantically to prevent coverage of the case. An editor from China Business News reported receiving “a telephone call asking that the article be deleted.” An article on Beijing Evening Times was quickly removed after it was reposted on major online portals.
“Why would China Southern, an important state-owned company, ignore and play down a passenger’s fair requests, while trying to shut down public opinion so quickly and forcefully? It’s the low standards of the company,” said one internet user posting under the handle “Animal Protection Dream – Boycott China Southern until they apologise.”
Animal welfare groups lead protestThe death of Mars attracted widespread attention. For days, demands for China Southern to apologise were posted online, along with accusations of negligence. As of the morning of the 11 October, messages from the microblog “Lovely Daughter Mars”, run by the dog’s owners, had been reposted 110,000 times.
One user with the handle “Watching Flowers in the Mist” wrote: “Would you risk taking an airline that doesn’t know to apologise for its mistakes? Would you risk taking an airline that doesn’t tell the truth? Would you risk taking an airline that doesn’t value life?”
Many users indicated they would boycott China Southern until a sincere apology was made. “Golden Retriever” wrote that “until China Southern apologises for the golden retriever incident, I and my company’s dozens of employees will not be taking China Southern, and those of us with loyalty cards will cancel them. My colleagues and I are encouraging our families and friends to avoid the airline too.”
On September 5, the Capital Animal Welfare Association, the China Animal Welfare Reporters’ Salon, and the China Youth Animal Protection Alliance joined almost 100 other animal welfare groups in writing an open letter to China Southern and the CAAC, saying the incident “showed the urgent need for better standards in airline transportation of live animals, and demonstrated many failings in the industry.” The letter also pointed out that 12 of China’s airlines, including China Southern and Hainan Airlines, are members of the International Air Transport Association, which has specific rules for live animal transportation.The letter also pointed out that 12 of China’s airlines, including China Southern and Hainan Airlines, are members of the International Air Transport Association, which has specific rules for live animal transportation – the Live Animal Regulations. The letter called for China Southern to apologise, reveal the truth, identify the responsible parties, pay compensation, seek understanding from the other parties, learn the lessons of the Mars incident and provide humane and professional services for passengers travelling with animals.
(source: Chinadialogue.net The original article)
Mars’s family filed a law suit against one the biggest airline companies in China. After a couple of court hearings and a potential reconciliation with the airline at the end of 2012, the family is not asking for any personal compensation but is instead seeking that China Southern take the following three actions:
1. A formal apology from China Southern Airline;
2. That the truth of what caused Mars’s death be revealed;
3. A $15,900 (100,000 RMB) donation to animal protection and welfare organizations.
The airline refused to comply with any of the family’s pleas. Their argument is that these pleas are made with a “lack of legal basis”. As well, the company continues to claim that they had no hand in Mars’ death.
On March 27th 2013, almost 8 months since the incident, Mars’ family had their latest court hearing. According to the latest post on the family’s blog, the airline revealed two very short edited pieces of video from the airport security cameras during the court hearings. Prior to this court hearing, the airline had denied all requests to reveal any airport security camera footage. Their response was simply that there was “no camera coverage of the baggage department” and that there was no trace of the dog found on airport cameras.”
One of the pieces of footage is only 10 seconds long and shows the airport ground service workers carelessly throwing luggage and crates from the cart to the conveyor belt. The two crates that contained Mars and July (the other Golden Retriever, Mars’s friend) were viciously thrown on the floor. Both crates crashed to the ground and turned over. The workers didn’t even bother to put them right side up.
The second video shows both crates already on a cart while a worker pushes the cart. The cart then hits a bump that the worker is only able to make it over by forcefully shoving the cart causing the dogs’ crates to shake and tilt so much that they nearly fell off the cart. Immediately after this episode, a dog (Mars) somehow escapes from his crate after it had been so badly damaged during the unbelievably terrible handling. Upon escaping, he quickly runs away and disappears from the video. At this moment, all of the other luggage on the cart, including the other crate with July in it, fell off the cart. The worker did nothing aside from staring aimlessly without attempting to either place July’s crate right-side up or chase after Mars.
After viewing the videos once, the prosecution asked that they be played again to allow further examination. The defense refused to play the videos and then refused all subsequent requests by the prosecution and Mars’ family to have copies of the videos made.
The defense is claiming that Mars’ death was an accident and that there was no negligence on the part of airline staff while handling the dogs. The defense instead claims Mars’ death is “directly due to genetic faults of the dog breed”. In addition, the defense is also making the case that the manner in which the workers handled the cargo was not hash enough to have caused any damage to the dog crates. The defense is also refusing to pay any compensation to the family for emotional damage because they claim that dogs cannot possibly be so meaningful to humans.
In the end, the defense has offered to pay the a grand total of $735 (4636 RMB) to family split between a $600 (3800 RMB) lost luggage fee calculated from the 38kg total weight of Mars and her crate plus a refund of the extra pet cargo fee $133 (836 RMB) paid for Mars’ transport. The airline, however, continues to deny any wrong doing on their part and is refusing to make any form of apology. The family refused the terms offered to them by the airline and continues to stand firmly by their three pleas. The prosecution is not expecting a positive result from the court and is now making preparations to begin the appeals process upon the court’s ruling. Mars’ family says the following on their blog:
This is unacceptable, and we will not compromise. I will start over again, I will gather new evidence, I will continue to fight! I have received some important new evidence recently which I will present it when it’s time. I will never let the people who hurt Mars go! I will do all that I can until justice is served. I will not let my child down. You (the airline) do not understand how much Mars meant to me, so I will show you with my actions. We are just mere ordinary folks, suing such a big and powerful cooperate, and I realize that we may be fighting a battle that it is impossible to win. However, the love I have for my Mars empowers me with a great strength. I will fear nothing, and I will keep going until the end of the world. We may have a small voice but that will not stop us from speaking out!
The following article is from Mars’ family’s blog:
We have walked past three years happily before the nightmare came… On March 12th, 2009, a little tiny life came into this world. May 17th, the same year, she came into our life, and walked into our heart. She is our Mars, our baby.
She was so docile, neat and coquetry, but not mischievous, and never monkeyed around. Her innocent eyes were always filled with love and attachment for us and this world. She would be happy to get a toy, and she would smile brightly to the blue sky and sunshine. We walked past three years, and we longed for the future, until she grew old gradually and lay in my arms and stepped into the beautiful heaven with happiness.
Yet, such a baby, our cherished baby, was suddenly gone. The past few days, as if it was a nightmare. But if only it were a nightmare…
August 6th, 2012, Beijing Capital Airport, Mars, where are you?
August 5th, 2012, 10:20, pm. Mars and July took the flight CZ6993 from Xining to Beijing with us. The previous week, she saw the gold rape blossoms blooming in Qinghai and azure Qinghai Lake, and ran freely on the broad grassland of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, as if fly.
That day, was the day to go home.
Before checking in Xining Airport, I checked Mars’ flight case over and over again, for fear that something improper would make her suffering, though, that was not her first flight.
August 6th, about 00:30, a.m. the plane landed in Beijing on time. Before long, July was delivered from Large Baggage Claim, but one of the luggage packing belts was missing, what’s more, the door of the flight case was open! Fortunately, July was still there, but my Mars was missing.Suddenly, some ominous feelings rose in my mind. We hurried to Baggage Claim area, but to be told that when her flight case was to be delivered to large luggage claim but broke, and she ran into the airports and now still not found.
|Mars’s Crate. How frightened and desperate she must have been, that she would choose to run for her life through such a small hole
I had no idea how to express my feelings at that moment, and I even could not attend to find out why so strong a flight case should be so broken to let a grow-up golden retriever run out, but what I know was that, how fearful my little timid girl would be, at such a strange place, with the roaring of aircraft, and how terrible it was.
Is there a surveillance video? The answer is they have no idea, and they are not in charge of it and have no power over it.Any witness? Only a female cleaner ever saw a dog run on the lawn.
Then, can we search there? The answer is definitely no; airport is staff, people’s policemen and armed police only.Then, we called the police. And two policemen from the airport police station came to us and China Southern Airlines (the CZ) to get the picture respectively, and then told us to wait for news.We begged them to take us there and find, but we were refused; and can them find her for us? Still rejected, and impatiently.
Thereafter, what I and her dad can do was to walk around the big airport, the high wire netting, and called her name over and over again. Maybe we were nuts in others’ eyes. However, you may never catch that how important Mars to us.
August 6th, maybe 3 or 4 o’clock, in the morning. We backed to the airport and inquired the workers of CZ whether there were landing or taking off, and we were told “not too much”.
Then were they still searching or not? They made a phone call, and shook his head.
Why not? They said maybe the staffs might have slept. “But don’t worry too much, as long dog would not run into parking apron to threaten to flight, it would not be a problem.”
While if it ran into? Only shoot, they said.
Shoot! Shoot! As if we had been shot to death at the moment we heard that. But face to the flights taking off and landing here, we dared not to ask them not to shoot her, we never.
We had no other choice but to beg them sadly, beg them to help to find my Mars when there were not so much flights, find her, find my baby, please!
However, the CZ workers told us this was not their responsibilities, and left.
Is this not your responsibility? Are we not passengers of CZ? Do we not pay you money? Does CZ not check our Mars? Aren’t you who signed an agreement with us? Has the flight case already broken when check? Cast all these aside, Is that not a life?
It is just to lift a finger! Lift a finger! Even this, you would not give us the contact information of airport’s insiders, nor did you help us contact them! And should you feel at ease and back to sleep! Do you know what responsibility is? Are you human? How could you!
Thus, again, we could do nothing but to call my baby, my Mars, around the wire netting! My anger! Helplessness! My fraternity, have you ever considered that if you are qualified to get help from others when you need help. But my baby, where are you? Baby, do not hurry to find mom and daddy, stay away from parking apron! Find a safe place, wait for mom and dad. No matter how difficult it is, we are going to find you, and lock you in our arms, and promise you we will never let you alone!
August 6th, in the morning, without awareness of the exact time. Security administrator came, and asked information, and took photo of the broken flight case, and told us to wait because they have already been searching. When waiting, every second was so long and horrible, while my Mars, will she feel hopefully when sun rises.
Gradually, there were more and more taking off and landing. We were already devastated, and said: if Mars really threatened the flight, please shoot her, because it concerned the safety of hundreds of people, and we could not afford that; but if you could, please leave her alive, we would be greatly appreciated for that; if she did not threaten the planes, please do not hurt her, and let us know as soon as you find her. They agreed.
About 9:00 a.m. Security administrators of airport took me in and let me try to call her. Two hours passed, Mars was still nowhere in sight. I was taken out. Thereafter, I implored them to take me or Mars’ dad to help, but they refused us.
If only that leader could be a little merciful, my Mars might be alive. Maybe to you it was just a dog, but to us, she was our baby. And was it not for the safety of the airport to take her leave?
What’s more, who actually caused such a situation? We or Mars? It was you! You caused all these things! And you never felt a little bit regret, instead, you were so indifferent, so apathetic!
That afternoon, we inquired the CZ and the airport, but to be informed that she was still missing. Calling my baby around the wire netting endlessly, I could still cry out.
That night, we made some leaflets, posting a reward, and handed out to workers of the CZ , loaders, cleaners… everyone of them were our hope, our hope!
August 7th, 2012, we lost our baby, and we realized that how fragile and helpless we were.
9:05 a.m. I was informed by phone that, at 3:00 a.m. someone saw her run very fast at the 4thgate of the airport enclosure and no one could catch her. Our hope was just lighted by that information. Someone saw her! She could run very fast! Could she?
At noon, 12:17 p.m. the counter workers of the CZ informed us that dog was found, but without absolute certainty that whether it was Mars or not. This news just saved us from hell and led us to the sunny, blossoming paradise. We even saw our baby come running into our arms, with her bright, golden hair gleaming.
The staff took Mars’ dad to confirm her, and I waited for that happy moment in anxiety.
After driving half an hour, they arrived at the division of management of airfield area in T3 terminal. Outside the door of the division, a pickup was exposed under the Sun, and with its hopper back to her dad, our baby was lying there. Her dad could not believe that was our Mars, because our baby was not supposed to be that.
When coming up her, seeing the necklace, her dad collapsed, and his brain went blank…
Stiff and mouth with blood, our baby was held in his arms. He walked from the division of management, and asked, why died? Was it not supposed to be alive?
One leader came out, and said, it was alive when we caught, but after caught with net gun, it fell down, twitched and spit out blood, and died two minutes later.
“When did you find her?”The leader checked his cell phone and said, 9:20.
Then why did you not inform us to assist when you find her? The leader replied nothing.
Later, he called the worker who caught her, and the worker said he really caught her with net gun, but never hurt her.
Where did you find her? Near to the ditch of 4th gate of the airport enclosure.
Where was the net?Packed, we can show you if you want.“No”, Mars’ dad said. Holding our baby in arms, he walked away, because I waited outside in anxiety.
I was afraid to call Mars’ dad, because I was positive at that moment.
Because they promised to give us a living baby, as long as she did not threaten the safety of flights.Because they promised that they will inform us at the first time and would never act without coordination with us.
Did the trust that I learned from Mars make me lose her? I shouldn’t trust her, should I?
July’s mom had driven car to the door and already reserved with a doctor, because our baby has lost for more than 30 hours, and we want to make her examined and to find whether her body functioned correctly. We all believed our baby was alive, but why?
At the first sight of her, I still thought her was alive, and she could get well as before after giving an emergency treatment. I cried out “Hurry up! Hurry up!” “The hospital! The hospital!” My sister had been waiting us outside and doctor Liu was also waiting for us!
It was when I got on the car, touched her stiff body and saw her mouth filled with blood, her empurpled tongue which bitten by herself when she was in a panic that I realized our baby was gone. However, how badly I hope she was alive.
While we still drove to hospital. There, doctor listened to the heartbeat, and shook his head. After checking her head and body, he said, no obvious trauma, but without anatomy, the cause could not be determined.
“Death cause” what a terrible phrase! It ruined my only hope that left! I had no idea that how she spent in the past 30 hours! How lonely she was! I had no idea how she was when she was caught! I did not know, when her breath stopped, what an awful world and horrible people she saw! I had no idea, what I could do was to cry her out with my only strength that left! All I want to know but two things…
Arriving home, we cleaned our baby, and she just looked like a sleep baby, so neat, so cute and still that quiet… however, no matter how many times I call you, my Mars, my baby; you just cannot get up to reply your mom…
I believe she must hate me to death, why did I take her to flight? Why did I hand her to those strangers? Why did mom not show up in the hardest 30 hours? Would she think I do not love her that much? But my baby, you know I love so much.
Seriously, I want to die with her at that moment, because my world just became into a world of darkness. But I can’t, because I have mom and dad, your dad, if I go with you, they will suffer what I experience now. Besides, my Mars, I will demand justice for you!
I have written all these things in my blog. While currently, Mars has not be autopsied, and nor do we see any surveillance, no matter the CZ or the airport, and no one can give us an explicit explanation.
Now, I just want to know two points:
First, how did the flight case break? If it was not broken, then Mars would not come out and would never die.
Second, to the airport, why did you not inform us at the first moment that you caught her, and how did you catch her？
I have seen your messages, my friends, but I am too sad to reply you.
Someone said it was wrong to take her by plane. Yes, I admit that. But I think it is safe as long as the door of flight case is closed. I am so ridiculous!However, I also want to know, is it also ridiculous that I conduct related formalities by regulation, use the regulated flight case and pay money? And does it not provide any assurance?
I love that life so much, so pure she was, and I never think she should leave this world in that way!
There are also many other people, who do not raise a dog and think I am so unreasonable.
But what I want to say is, you have never raised a dog, so you cannot understand what a dog can give you, it is more than happiness and companion, what’s more important is that, she can teach you many things, such as giving, trust, responsibility, simple happiness, and even honor to parents, because for babies, they are willing to do anything.They are human’s friends, and will you be touched when you see the sniffer dogs devote themselves to duties?They are innocent angel, never disguise, never complain, never compare unrealistically, and never hate. They feel our happiness and share our sadness. They never talk but they how to listen, and no matter rich or poor, they will stay with us. All these stuffs, should they fade away from our world? If there are still some people who think I am out of all reason, I do not care. My love, my most cherished Mars is gone, but I will never give up defending his life, and this process is my defense for his respect!
Mars,my baby, Please smile to us, Where sun rises. August 11th, 2012, before dawn.