A Canadian rescue dog, who was on her way to a foster home, was shot dead at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Monday, according to Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, the group who rescued the canine and was transporting her to a foster home.
Greta was one of the 500 to 600 stray dogs the non-profit saves each year, pulling them for rural communities in Northern Canada — where they are caught outside in severe weather and often die without help — and flying them to Winnipeg to receive veterinary care and housing until they are healthy enough to find forever families.
During her flight from Shamattawa First Nation to Winnipeg in the cargo hold of a Perimeter Aviation plane, Greta managed to chew her way out of her plastic kennel. Upon the plane’s arrival at Winnipeg, the dog, free from her crate, ran out of the cargo hold of the plane when it was opened.
“She was afraid and running and ended up on the tarmac, she ended up causing flights to reroute,” Rebecca Norman, a director at Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, told PEOPLE.
On an active runway, Greta caused one flight to reroute. Winnipeg Airport Authority Wildlife Control tried to catch the dog, but were unable to lead her to safety. Greta was still stuck on the runway when a second plane started to come in for a landing. Concerned that the incoming plane would crash if they attempted divert it, the airport authorities made the hard decision to use “lethal force,” shooting and killing the canine.
“Of course, it’s tragic. Nobody is happy with the outcome,” Norman said.
Among those heartbroken over the death is Greta’s foster mom, who was at the airport to pick up Greta when the dog was shot. Greta was supposed to be the woman’s first foster dog with Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue and she was excited about helping out an animal in need. Going home without Greta was “brutal” for her.
Even though Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue is moving forward with a heavy heart, the group is confident that the airport “did the best the could” with the difficult situation.
“I think a lot of people are really angry,” Norman said regarding some of the reactions she has seen online. “I am not sure they understand. It’s not something they wanted to do, not anything they wanted to do. It came down to plane crashes and people dying.”
Norman herself said she is sad over the loss of Greta, but has no anger towards the airline or airport involved with the incident.
“We’ve been working with the airport for seven years and they have helped us save thousands of dogs,” she added.
Officials from Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue plan to meet with the airport next week to work together on making the airport experience safer for traveling dogs, especially the strays they fly in who might not have the same behaviors as a pet.
Norman said they group plans on discussing the potential implementation of tranquilizer darts to be used on animals who end up on the runway and creating a perimeter around the unloading area to prevent animals being taken out of the cargo hold of planes from escaping.
While the kennels the rescue uses for travel are standard issue and certified safe for travel, the group plans on upgrading to more durable non-plastic kennels to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue has placed dogs all over, including England and the United States. Their canines are available for adoption to any good home in the world as long as the prospective owners are willing to fly out to Winnipeg to pick up the pet and safely transport them home.
Tyler MacAfee, Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, provide the statement below to PEOPLE when reached for comment.
“It is truly an unfortunate event and not the outcome anyone wanted. The incredibly difficult decision to use lethal force is always a last resort. Our employee, a dog owner himself, took this action in the interest of aviation safety. One flight was already forced to abort its landing as a result of the dog crossing the active runway.”