United Airlines is facing fierce criticism following the death of a 10-month French Bulldog puppy, named Kokito, after the animal was allegedly forced into an overhead bin on a three-hour flight from Houston to New York City.
A passenger aboard United Flight 1284, June Lara, said the owner of the dog was asked to place it in its carrier overhead shortly after boarding.
Lara posted a photo of the deceased animal through a heartbreaking post on Facebook, and the story is going viral.
The owner of the dog, Catalina Robledo, who was flying with her young daughter and baby, said she informed the flight attendant there was a dog in the bag.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Witness: Flight Attendants Felt Puppy Was ‘Better Off Crammed Inside the Overhead Container Without Air & Water’
Lara posted the above photos detailing the gut-wrenching fate of the puppy, and the post is going viral. Lara wrote:
Today, I boarded my first United Airlines flight.
On my way, I saw a Frenchie that looked identical to my own precious Winston. He was with his family – a young girl, no older than 8, her toddler sibling and their mother. He was meant to grow, learn, cry, play with those young children and be their furry friend. He was meant to live a long life filling that family’s days with that special joy that only a dog can bring.
I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky – who doesn’t when they get to sit near a puppy? However, the flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.
There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone.
The Humane Society of the U.S. says air travel can be risky for pets and especially dangerous for brachycephalic breeds — such as pugs or bulldogs, whose short nasal passages make them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath. United Airlines does not care about the safety of their furry travelers. This poor family paid $125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them. There is no excuse for the pain this family is suffering.
Today, I boarded my last United Airlines flight.
“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her,” Maggie Gremminger told People. “After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above.”
Gremminger went on to explain to the publication what went through her own head while trying to decipher the situation. “My only thought is that if it had been me, it would have been a hard scenario,” she continued. “The flight attendant is the authority figure, who should be trusted. I was thinking ‘maybe there is an improved ventilation system’ or something of the sorts. Also, the owner had an infant and other daughter. Causing a scene before flight could risk being kicked off the flight. I can only imagine she felt stuck in her decision to comply.”
2. Robledo Was Traveling With 2 Children When the Tragedy, Which Went Against Company Policy, Occurred
In a since-deleted tweet, Maggie Gremminger wrote, “I want to help this woman and her daughter. They lost their dog because of an @united flight attendant. My heart is broken.”
Robledo was traveling with her daughter, 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos, and a baby. Though United is denying the flight attendant knew a dog was in the bag, the family and witnesses tell a different story.
“He was a member of our family,” a teary-eyed Sophia Ceballos, 11, said in an interview with Good Morning America. “He was like my brother to me.”
“We were gonna put him under the seat and then the flight attendants came, she said, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path.’ And we’re like, ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ And she’s like, ‘It doesn’t matter you still have to put it up there,’” Ceballos stated on GMA. “She helped her put it up, and she just closed it like it was a bag.”
“I want to help this woman and her daughter,” @MaggieGrem tweeted along with the devastating photo above. “They lost their dog because of an @united flight attendant. My heart is broken.”
Forcing the animal to ride in the overhead bin goes against United’s in-cabin pet policy, which states, in part: “A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
3. Social Posts Regarding the Incident Have Gone Viral, & the Public Is Outraged
Many have taken to social media to express their outrage towards the incident.
Gremminger tweeted, “Dear twitter-verse. My apologies for my sleep deprived typos today. It’s been a hard, sad one. I am grateful that word is spreading about the United flight 1284 incident so that we NEVER have to see this happen again. Thank you for amplifying this horrific, but important story.”
At the time of publishing, Lara’s post had nearly 30,000 shares while the initial tweet by Maggie Gremminger had 2,850 retweets and almost 9,000 Likes.
“So what are you going to do with the flight attendant, who forced the owner to put their dog in the overhead compartment? @united,” @Jdavis19940815 tweeted.
“A dog brought on a United flight died after the flight attendant forced the family to put the animal into the overhead bin,” @ajplus tweeted. “A mom and her two children discovered their bulldog dead in its carrier after landing. It’s the latest of many pet deaths attributed to United’s practices.”
4. 75% of 2017 Airline Animal Deaths Were From United, & an Investigation Is Underway Regarding Kokito
According to data collected from the Department of Transportation, United had the most animal deaths of all U.S. airlines in 2017, which amounted to a whopping 75%.
Last year the airline had 18 deaths, which was double from nine deaths reported in 2016.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) warns travelers that “air travel can be risky for pets.” Their website advises the following:
The HSUS recommends that you weigh all the risks when deciding whether to transport your pet by airplane. Air travel can be particularly dangerous for animals with ‘pushed in’ faces (the medical term is ‘brachycephalic’), such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats. Their short nasal passages leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.
Consider all the alternatives to flying. If you plan to bring your pet on vacation, driving is usually a better option. If you can’t travel by car, your pet will probably be healthier and happier if you leave them behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel. But there are times when that won’t be possible and you’ll have to determine whether the benefits of flying outweigh the risks.
If you decide to fly with your pet, choose the cabin when possible
If transporting your pet by air is the only option, find out whether they can travel in the cabin with you. Most airlines will allow you to take a cat or small dog in the cabin for an additional fee. But you must call the airline well in advance; there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin. If you are transporting your dog, make sure they meet the size requirements. If you get overwhelmed by all the regulations, there are companies that can help you navigate through the process of flying with a pet.
A criminal probe into Kokito’s death has been launched by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas, NY Post reported, adding that the county’s animal task force will be involved in the investigation.
5.The Airline Is Taking Full Responsibility
The airline has accepted full responsibility for the incident, and issued an apology to USA Today, adding that it was “thoroughly investigating” the matter.
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in a statement to Today in the Sky. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”