The Department of Transportation has launched an investigation into the death of a puppy that was stowed away in a United overhead bin during a three-and-a-half-hour flight — against its owners wishes.
DOT officials said Wednesday that they’d be probing the incident, including reports that the pooch could have gone under the owner’s seat but a flight attendant refused.
While United admitted in a statement that the staffer had messed up — “as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin” — its claims the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding.
“We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier,” the airline said Wednesday. “However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin.
“As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident,” United added. “We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.”
Transportation officials said Wednesday that they were working with the Department of Agriculture — which enforces the Animal Welfare Act and handles complaints regarding animal mistreatment — to find out what happened.
Fellow passengers who were on board the Big Apple-bound flight have reported hearing the owner’s pleas to keep her four-legged best friend in the cabin.
The incident has sparked fierce backlash online and even caused some politicians to take notice.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent a letter Wednesday to United president Scott Kirby, requesting information on the events leading up to the French bulldog’s death. He later told MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake that he took the puppy’s passing very personally.
“It made me mad,” said Kennedy. “I have a couple dogs at home. One of them is a beagle and I don’t know what the other one is, but I love him.”
In his letter, the senator pointed to similar incidents, such as the United bunny death last year, in which airlines were allegedly negligent.
“This pattern of animal deaths and injuries is simply inexcusable,” Kennedy wrote, citing DOT figures. “For many people, pets are members of the family. They should not be treated like insignificant cargo.”
According to DOT records, 18 of the 24 animals that perished last year on US carriers were flying United. Another 13 were injured.
“They killed this poor dog — and it’s not right,” Kennedy said.
The Louisiana lawmaker plans to introduce legislation on Thursday, which would ban the transport of pets in overhead bins.
“I will be filing a bill tomorrow that will prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead bins,” Kennedy tweeted. “Violators will face significant fines. Pets are family.”
Credit: NY Post