My dog is a full-fledged member of the family. She travels with us, goes out to restaurants with us, and even attends friends’ parties with us. For me and many others, learning about the puppy who died on a United flight earlier this week was heart-wrenching and unimaginable.
On Monday, Catalina Robledo and her 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos, passengers on a United flight from Houston to New York City, were instructed to move their dog, who was in an approved carrier, from under a seat to an overhead bin. The flight attendant was concerned that the carrier would block the walkway.
Robledo complied and the plane took off. The 10-month-old French bull dog, Kokito, began barking during the flight, which had turbulence. Robledo told Telemundo that she was holding her baby during the turbulence and she did not see flight attendants around. Therefore, she was not able to check on her dog.
Upon landing, the family learned Kokito had died inside the overhead compartment during the three hour and 25 minute flight. The story went viral after other passengers shared photos and reactions to the experience.
United deemed the puppy’s death “a tragic accident,” resulting from a misunderstanding and miscommunication. Robledo is not a native English speaker and the flight attendant who told her to put the bag in the overhead bin said she did not realize there was a dog inside it.
According to United’s statement, “the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier.” However, the flight attendant “did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin.”
Immediately after realizing the puppy had died, the crew helped the heartbroken passengers.
“They were professional and did a wonderful job gathering information and being as supportive to the mourning family as possible,” Maggie Gremminger, a fellow passenger, explained to People.com. She hoped by sharing the story with the media, she can help prevent similar tragedies from happening.
Family’s French bulldog died on a 3hr #United flight from Hou to NYC. Family says flight attendant made them put pup in the overhead bin. Stories differ on whether or not flight attendant knew dog was in this carrier. STORY ➡️ https://t.co/AMQBpLOcbA #abc13 pic.twitter.com/7mo605Le8H
— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) March 14, 2018
She already has. Now, United is quickly instituting new measures to eliminate confusion so this won’t happen again.
Change Is In The Air
Beginning next month, United will start issuing bright yellow tags to passengers traveling with pets in carriers, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Some people are still saying United’s apology and the new tags aren’t enough. In fact, some have called for a boycott and even the government is getting involved.
On March 15, two senators filed legislation called the Welfare Of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act to prohibit putting domesticated animals in overheard compartments on airplanes. Additionally, the Harris County, Texas, district attorney’s office and the Queens District Attorney’s office in New York have both announced they will investigate to assess whether animal cruelty occurred.
This isn’t the only airline policy change that effects animals in-flight. In January 2018, Delta instituted stricter rules for emotional support animals.
Check your airline’s pet policy closely before your next flight and hug your pets close tonight.