Greta, a two-year-old Labrador cross, had a history of chewing through her kennels and getting out - but few could have predicted it would lead to her dying on the airport tarmac.
Manitoba Mutts, an animal rescue group headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, was flying Greta to a new foster home as cargo when she chewed through her crate during the flight to the Winnipeg Airport, the group wrote on Facebook.
When workers opened the cargo doors at around 4:30 p.m. on April 9, Greta bolted from the plane and ran on the tarmac and into the path of oncoming planes.
“The dog ran across the active runway, which caused a flight coming in from Las Vegas to be diverted. It had to abort its landing,” Tyler MacAfee, a Winnipeg Airports Authority spokesperson, told CTV. Staff tried to contain her, but Greta kept escaping and running back toward the runway. Worse, more planes kept coming in.
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The wildlife control officer made the difficult decision - and used lethal force, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported.
“It was a tough day for everyone,” MacAfee told PEOPLE. “It's certainly not the outcome anyone wants to see, and it's a really tough decision for someone to make to use force in that way on an animal … But at the same time it's that balance of aviation safety.”
The rescue group wrote that it was devastated that Greta “never got to live the life we wanted for her,” and that this was the first time after hundreds of dog transports that anything like this had happened.
But the group’s director Rebecca Norman says she and the rescue group place no blame whatsoever on the airport officials.
“Quite clearly, we didn't want [Greta] to be hit by a plane. That would have been more painful than the way she passed away,” Norman told the CBC. “And we also didn't want … the planes to crash or people to get hurt. So they did everything they could for her and for the planes to land.”
The rescue group said the same in their post on Facebook, writing that they “truly believe that all parties involved did the best they could with the training and resources available to them and no one person or group is to blame ...”
MacAfee told the CBC it was the first time in the airport’s records that lethal force had been used on a pet. Now the airport authority plans to sit down with Manitoba Mutts to determine policies for dealing with animals, and to determine exactly how Greta escaped her crate, CTV reported.
“We're going to try to sit down with this group and see if there's an opportunity where we can refine some of the things that we're doing and look at some different techniques and tactics that we can be doing to see if there's a better way in the future,” MacAfee told the CBC.