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Who Is To Blame For This Dog’s Death On A United Airlines Flight?

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 20, 2018
Posted in Dogs

Anyone with a Facebook account has probably heard about the death of an infant dog during a United Airlines flight last week. The airline has taken full responsibility for the death and recently announced a new policy to prevent similar incidents.

The Main Story

Here’s what happened: Catalina Robledo boarded the three-hour flight with her daughter, a newborn baby, and their 10-month-old French Bulldog, Kokito. The dog was reportedly in a carrying case. Robledo, who says she paid to bring the dog with her to her seat, placed the dog under her feet. A flight attendant, however, told her she had to place the bag in the overhead luggage compartment because it was blocking the aisle.

Robledo and her daughter repeatedly told the flight attendant that their dog was inside the bag. The two even say the flight attendant touched the bag and could feel its contents. Still, the flight attendant would not listen and placed the dog in the overhead compartment.

Witnesses say Kokito was heard barking several times throughout the flight, but the flight crew did nothing. Robledo opened the bag as soon as the flight landed in New York. Her dog, a gift to her oldest daughter, was dead.

Did The Flight Attendant Know?

The flight attendant claims to have had no idea a dog was in the bag and, according to witnesses, was completely shocked when its contents were revealed upon landing. Robledo and her daughter, however, believe the flight attendant knew exactly what was in the bag and is lying to cover herself up.

Most of the online community appears to agree.

But they might be forgetting something: Robledo’s first language is not English. Her daughter seems to have been the one who was doing most of the talking to the flight attendant. It’s entirely possible that, amid the typical commotion of boarding a flight, the flight attendant did not understand what was being communicated to her.

Kathleen Lord-Jones, a flight attendant for 24 years, told the New York Daily News that no flight attendant would ever willingly put a dog in such danger.

“I can’t imagine any flight attendant saying, ‘put your dog in the overhead bin,’” she said.

You Can’t Just Say “No”

Some people are also questioning why Robledo gave in to the flight attendant’s orders. One witness told People that simply refusing might not have been in her best interest:

“My only thought is that if it had been me, it would have been a hard scenario. 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.”

But If So Many People Were Watching…

Another witness posted her experience on Facebook. The post was extremely heartfelt but fellow Facebook users couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t protest when the bag was placed in the overhead bin. “Why didn’t you say anything?” they asked, with some suggesting that she was just as responsible for Kokito’s death as the flight attendant. Numerous witnesses did say the dog could be heard barking but as of yet, there have no reports of any witnesses telling the flight crew to remove the carrying case from the bin.

The uncertainty regarding who’s to blame for the death may explain why the flight attendant still has a job. Next month, United Airlines will provide bright-colored tags to travelers with pets so flight attendants can recognize their carrying cases. Airlines may eventually face heavy fines for placing animals in overhead bins, whether they meant to do so or not.

Read also: Valentines Day Dog Treats

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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