Loose Dog Delays Toronto Flights For An Hour


Last Tuesday morning, all traffic was halted at Toronto Pearson Airport for an hour. The reason? A runaway Spanish rescue dog named Crystal, who roamed the runways for over 12 hours. The search effort to locate her involved the control tower, night vision cameras, and a falconer.

dog on tarmac stops traffic at toronto airport
A runaway rescue dog stopped traffic at Toronto Pearson Airport on Tuesday morning. Photo: Getty Images

Most rescue dogs are eager to meet their new humans. Crystal, a white Spanish Podenco, seems to have been particularly keen to be on her way. In fact, she was so excited that when the British Airways flight she was on landed at Toronto Pearson Airport on Monday evening, she bolted right out across the airfield.

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Night vision cameras for tracking

The box holding Crystal, who traveled along with three other dogs heading to their new homes in Canada, had not been appropriately fastened and its gate had come undone during the journey across the Atlantic. When baggage handlers opened the door, she took her chance and sped out into the dark.

The incident with the runaway pup forced the airport to suspend both arrivals and departures for one hour on Tuesday morning, although it took close to 13 hours to find her. Rhonda Martins of Greyhounds, Galgos, and Podencos of Atlantic Canada, who was part of arranging the adoption, told CBC News that,

“They had nighttime vision cameras and everything to track her. I ended up getting security clearance to go out on the tarmac and one of the guys drove me around for hours and it actually started to rain. It rained so bad. We had hoped that she’d get cover, but she just kept running the whole time.”


Aborted landings

A dog on an airfield is a pretty serious business. As Beverley Farmer, part of Podenco Friends, a Nova Scotia-based group that pairs Canadian foster homes with rescue dogs of the particular breed, said on her Facebook page, Crystal got on to the runway on no less than two occasions as a plane was coming in for landing, and the pilots had to abort.

Before the chase was over, the control tower, aviation safety officers, and even the airport’s resident falconer (who usually uses birds of prey to scare away other birds from runways) had gotten involved in the search. In the end though, it was Crystal who wore herself out and let the chasers win.

Simple Flying has contacted Toronto Pearson Airport to confirm but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.

Toronto Pearson Airport.
This is not the first time a dog has taken to the runways at Pearson. Photo: Toronto Pearson Airport

Not the first time a runaway dog causes Havoc at Pearson

This is not the first incident where a runaway dog has stopped traffic in Toronto. In March 2018, a Belgian Malinois named Havoc lived up to his name as he escaped from his crate as it toppled off a conveyor belt while being loaded onto an Air Canada plane. Havoc was found by the fence at the end of one of the runways. Airport workers were unsuccessful at bringing him in, but after they let his owner out of the car in which she was riding along in the search, he responded to her call.

The plight of Podencos

Havoc was a highly trained dog compared to last Monday’s runaway bolting about the airfield all night. Crystal is a Spanish Podenco, which is a cousin to the Greyhound. The breed is sometimes referred to as the “invisible dogs” or the “great forgotten.” They are bred to hunt, not protected by Spanish law, and often kept in quite gruesome conditions. Meanwhile, they are descendants of one of the first tame dog breeds, Egypt’s Pharaoh Hounds.

How do standby tickets work
With nearly four million dogs entering shelters in the US alone each year, there are so many furry friends that need a new home. Photo: Getty Images

Adopt, don’t shop

In the United States alone, 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters each year, four million of them dogs. Some of them are lucky to find new homes, such as the puppy, who traveled on four different flights along with a good samaritan Southwest flight attendant back in August. Unfortunately, most are euthanized. With so many loveable creatures in need of homes, we commend the work of animal rescue organizations that pair shelter dogs with new forever homes. Adopt don’t shop; just make sure all crates are closed properly for a less dramatic arrival for your new family member.