Pet dog dies in cargo hold during US Marines family’s move to new overseas post

Military leaders issue apologies over ‘heat stroke’ death

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 13 July 2022 14:47 BST
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The wife of a US marine spoke out after their pet dog died on a flight
The wife of a US marine spoke out after their pet dog died on a flight (Amber Marie / Facebook)

An investigation into the death of a pet dog is underway after a family of a US marines said their 10-year-old Pomeranian mix “Kolbie” died while being transferred between two US air bases in Japan.

Amber Panko, the wife of Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Panko, said in a recent Facebook post that Kolbie died while being transferred on a US Air Mobility Command flight from Yokota to Iwakuni.

An autopsy later confirmed that the Kolbie died of heat stroke, Ms Panko claims: “He was killed before we even took flight from Yokata.”

Kolbie was flown with other dogs on the flight as cargo, although none others were confirmed to have died.

In a statement six days after the incident, the US Air Mobility Command said in a statement that it expressed sadness at the death of the Panko family’s dog and promised a change in future protocol.

“Leaders are aware of and looking into the details of a military family that posted on social media about the tragic loss of their pet aboard an AMC Patriot Express mission over the July 4th weekend,” the US Air Force wing said.

“If any of our protocols weren’t followed properly, we’ll re-evaluate how we enforce them to ensure they are always followed in the future. If all protocols were followed properly, we’ll look at changes we can make to best protect all travelers aboard AMC flights.”

According to the Military Times, Air Mobility Command commander Gen. Mike Minihan reached out to the family to apologise. As did Lt. Col. Brandon Greenawalt, commander of the 730th Air Mobility Squadron.

US Marine Corps jets at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan
US Marine Corps jets at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan (Getty Images)

“[Minihan] explained to us that Kolbie has his full attention, and his situation, [and] the situation of live cargo transportation is his number one priority,” Ms Panko told the military news outlet. “[He] gave us his word that change will happen, and I do not take that lightly.”

The wife of the US marine said officials were considering a request for air conditioned rooms at all military outposts that transport live cargo for families traveling with pets, and “pet relief stations”.

“I want to thank Air Mobility Command for taking responsibility for Kolbie’s death and for making an immediate change toward our requests for permanent change,” she said in a Facebook comment on Tuesday. “Although yes I feel it 100% would have been prevented with commen sense rationality, I do understand, to a point, how processes have to be set in place and protocols followed”

She added: “I am hoping from here on out there is a way to adjust protocol if need be and that those who are specifically handling our fur members are at the level of intelligence and leadership to be able to make those decisions wisely and effectively,”.

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