Thousands sign petition after death of family pet on board ferry

Over 7,600 people have backed calls for ferry companies to improve animal welfare following the death of a Northumberland family pet

Merlin the pug
Merlin the pug

More than 7,000 people have backed an animal safety campaign following the death of a Northumberland family’s pet dog.

A pug owned by the Wallace family from Alnwick in Northumberland, died in a car on board a ferry travelling across the English channel after the family were told they couldn’t take the dog out of their vehicle.

On the back of the incident, 7,600 people have signed a petition calling for ferry companies to be forced to take greater account of the welfare of animals travelling with them.

Kirsty Wallace, 32, from Alnwick, husband Deane, and their sons Dillon, 12, Ben, 11 and Blake, 10, currently live in Germany where Deane is in the army.

They are returning to the UK as he has been redeployed. Last Friday, the couple travelled from Calais to Dover by P&O Ferry in order to take the children and their three dogs to Kirsty’s mother’s home.

As a result of the ferry company’s policies, Kirsty claims the family was not allowed to remove the dogs from its vehicle or to stay with them.

They left the dogs in the car with its windows open but when the Wallaces returned after the 90-minute crossing in Friday’s soaring heat, their pug Merlin was motionless.

Attempts were made to resuscitate the dog and water thrown over it to cool it down, but it was pronounced dead - with a vet saying the high temperatures were the likely cause.

Kirsty is now calling for ferry companies to be required to have a pet deck where animals are kept in ventilated conditions and checked on.

“Passengers should be able to go down and sit with them, not just leave them to bake to death in a car. What are we paying for if it is not for them to check on them?

“The staff on the ferry were brilliant, they brought down oxygen tanks. We just want the policy changed.”

A friend of Kirsty’s set up a petition a day after the incident calling on Defra to “put pressure on ferry companies to take animal welfare into account.”

In the three days since, 7,601 people have signed.

Last night, P&O Ferries said it was reviewing its policy on carriage of pets following the incident.

A statement said: “On the ship concerned, ventilation of the deck where the vehicle concerned was parked is excellent with a constant through flow of cooling fresh air along the entire length of the deck.

“The deck is not exposed to the sun’s rays and P&O Ferries’ staff always respond positively to requests from pet owners to check on their animals during the crossings.

“Many airlines refuse to transport certain breeds of dogs, notably pugs, bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds, due to the respiratory issues from which these animals are prone to suffer.

“P&O Ferries, which carries more than 50,000 pet dogs a year of all breeds, is reluctant to stop offering a service to the owners of certain breeds, believing that owners are best placed to judge the suitability of conditions when transporting their animals. However the company is now reviewing its policy.

“This was a hugely distressing incident for the family concerned and for P&O Ferries’ personnel who tried to revive the animal for 20 minutes, administering CPR and oxygen. The family has the company’s sincere sympathies.”

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