updated 7/7/2005 6:40:52 PM ET 2005-07-07T22:40:52

A cat named Tango and an overweight black Lab mix called Cave were among the four pets that died on commercial airline flights in May, according to the government’s first monthly report on such incidents.

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The figures released Thursday by the Transportation Department bolsters airlines’ claims that the vast majority of animals survive flying without a problem.

Some animal rights advocates had suggested that as many as 20,000 pets die in airliners every year.

“One injured or killed pet is one too many,” said Jack Evans, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an industry group. “But virtually all animals that are transported are transported safely.”

Six U.S. airlines reported a total of 10 incidents, including five cases in which a pet was injured and one in which a pet was lost.

More than 2 million pets and other live animals are carried by airlines every year in the U.S.

Two pets died aboard Continental Airlines.

Cave, an 8-year-old black Lab mix was on a flight from Honolulu to Newark, N.J. Cave was dead when he arrived at Newark. A necropsy revealed that the 87-pound dog had a severe heart problem and probably died because his heart stopped.

A second pet, an unnamed rat, apparently died of natural causes on a flight between Houston and McAllen, Texas.

In the other incidents:

  • A cat named Simbi escaped from its kennel while being carried from Northwest Airlines’ cargo warehouse to the passenger terminal. Simbi was not found, the report said.
  • Kelly, a Sheltie, did not look well when she was taken off a US Airways flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Washington. A veterinarian said Kelly had ingested a toxic substance. She was put to sleep. A US Airways investigation failed to discover what happened.
  • Tango, an Abyssinian cat, was attacked and killed in the cargo hold by a dog that escaped from his kennel. Alaska Airlines found that the dog was placed in a kennel not strong enough to hold him. The dog’s owner was taken into police custody and banned from the airline for a year. The dog was banned permanently.

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