If you can’t stand a sad story, stop reading now. This one is just as heart-breaking as it is infuriating, and it might make you never fly United again. That’s because United just took responsibility for the death of a puppy, a small dog that just wanted to arrive in New York City unharmed.
On Monday night, witness June Lara says United flight attendants insisted another passenger place her dog in the overhead bin on a flight from Houston to LaGuardia. This, despite the fact that the dog was in a TSA-approved carrying case and that United’s policy clearly states that dogs should be stored under the seat in front of the passenger in those cases. For unclear reasons, the flight staff allegedly asked the passenger to put the pup, a 10-month-old French Bulldog, in the overhead bin without explaining why but assuring the passenger the dog would be fine.
Passenger Maggie Gremminger said she heard the dog barking during the flight. When the plane landed, the dog’s owner found her dog motionless. According to Lara, the passenger and her two young children called the dog’s name, and after it didn’t respond, the mother attempted to give the dog mouth-to-mouth, as Lara held the dog owner’s toddler. The dog was dead. Lara later detailed the incident on Facebook (WARNING: the post includes photos of the dead dog) and Gremminger expressed outrage on Twitter.
United confirmed the incident on Tuesday. Its statement admits that the overhead bin is no place for a pup:
This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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.
CNBC reports the airline is refunding the price of tickets for the family and has offered to pay for a necropsy to determine the dog’s cause of death. Based on the lack of airflow in the overhead compartment and the tendency of French Bulldogs to have breathing problems, suffocation seems to be a likely cause.
This is hardly the first dog that has died on a United flight. According to CNBC, United reported more animal deaths on flights last year than any other US carrier—a lot more. Citing Department of Transportation statistics, the network reports a total of 18 animals carried in cargo holds died on United flights last year, while just there were two cargo hold animal deaths, respectively, on Delta and American flights in 2017. United was also the airline that flew Lulu, a five-year-old King Charles Spaniel who died in the cargo hold on a flight from Houston to San Francisco last August. The list of reasons why United is an awful airline goes on and on beyond animal deaths, too.
If we’re to learn any lessons from this latest tragedy, they are simple lessons. One, never put your pet in the overhead bin. Two, never ever ever fly United.