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Airline Snafu Leaves Dozens of Ferrets Dead

Reprint of an article from the Evansville Courier, January 18, 2001

A miscommunication between an airline and its cargo handlers is being blamed for the death of at least 35 ferrets, discovered dead in a storage container at Evansville Regional Airport.

"All but four of the animals were already dead when airport workers discovered the container on Dec. 26," said Vicki Kavanaugh, director of Evansville Animal Control. Apparently, US Airways lost track of the shipment and the intended recipient didn't notify the airline about not receiving the animals.

"We are saddened by this and we're not condoning it ... but we are thoroughly satisfied this was an isolated incident and was an accident," Kavanaugh said.

The animals were apparently destined for a store in Pittsburgh.

Shipment laws require a temperature of at least 32 degrees for live shipments to be stored at a location. It was apparently too cold in Pittsburgh to keep the animals, and they were forwarded inadvertently to Evansville, Kavanaugh said.

The animals were reportedly shipped on Dec. 18 from the East Coast and discovered at the Evansville airport nine days later.

"We were under the impression nobody knew they were there," Kavanaugh said. "They all died of dehydration. These were very young ferrets."

Four of the animals were found alive on Dec. 26. When requested, Derek Phelps, manager of Pet Food Center on the city's West Side, took the remaining animals to receive emergency veterinarian treatment. All but one died a short time later.

Animal Control would typically be responsible for disposal of the dead animals, but Kavanaugh said the container with the remains was thrown in an airport trash bin.

The bin was empty when she arrived, which indicated the animals had already been taken to the city landfill, she said.

The local manager of US Airways, Steve Wilson, deferred all comment to the corporate office. David Castelvetter, a company spokesman, would not discuss the incident beyond a short statement.

"We regret this unfortunate event. Our procedures on handling live animal shipments have been reinforced throughout the company to ensure a situation like this never happens again," Castelvetter said.