Dog Deaths, Flushed Hamsters and Booted Peacocks: All the Airline Pet Scandals of 2018
CAT ESCAPES CARRIER, FOUND DEAD THE NEXT DAY
In June, Sandra Dale and her teenage son arrived extra-early for their Delta flight from BWI to Hawaii, with cats Bells and Charlee in tow. After a long delay at TSA they just made their flight — then received some bad news. "It was a lady and she said I know you don't want to hear this but one of your cats isn't in the crate," Dale recalled to a local news station. The Dales searched the airport for 10 hours, waking up the next day to more bad news: Bells had been found dead under a conveyor belt.
Dale doesn't believe her cat died there, though; after taking her pet to the vet for X-rays, she thinks the animal was run over on the tarmac and placed below the belt. In her opinion, this devastating and frustrating event could've been avoided if TSA had properly checked in the family and their pets in the three-and-a-half hours time they spent waiting prior to finally arriving late at their gate.
DOG DIES IN CARGO HOLD DURING STOPOVER
Michael Dellegrazie, his girlfriend and his Pomeranian Alejandro all planned to move cross-country together from Phoenix, Arizona, to Newark, New Jersey. Tragically, Alejandro never made it to the East Coast alive. The 8-year-old dog, who was flying in the cargo hold of a Delta plane to his new home, died during a stopover in Detroit in June 2018.
According to the ABC affiliate, the airline claims that a flight attendant checked on Alejandro during the stop and found him alive, but when another employee checked on the dog two hours later he was dead.
Dellegrazie accused the airline of withholding information — and the dog's body — from him, and called for a criminal investigation. The airline released a statement saying it was conducting an internal review, as well.
DELTA MISROUTES PUPPY ACROSS THE COUNTRY
An 8-week-old puppy traveling Delta from Richmond, Virginia, to Boise, Idaho, making stops in Detroit and Minneappolis, was misrouted to Las Vegas. The mix-up occurred after a delay in Detroit led to the puppy staying in the city overnight. When the airline realized their mistake, the puppy was flown from Vegas to Salt Lake City and then finally to Boise. The puppy is now safe, sound and on the ground at its new Idaho home.
UNITED ACCIDENTALLY SENDS KANSAS CITY BOUND DOG TO JAPAN
A dog traveling via United's cargo travel program PetSafe during his family's move was supposed to end up in his new home in Kansas City, but the airline accidentally sent him to Japan. United somehow confused the German shepherd with a Great Dane traveling to Japan, causing the canines to end up in the other's final destination. The error was eventually fixed with the German shepherd safely making it back to his concerned owners in Kansas City.
UNITED REROUTES FLIGHT AFTER DOG MISTAKE
DOG DIES AFTER BEING STOWED IN OVERHEAD BIN
Catalina Robledo boarded a United flight from Houston to New York City with her daughter Sophia Ceballos, her 2-month-old son and her French Bulldog Kokito. After sitting down and storing Kokito in his carrier under the seat in front of her, a flight attendant approached Robledo and told her the dog's carrier was blocking the aisle and that it need to be stored in the overhead bin.
"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, 11, told Good Morning America about the incident. "She helped her put it up, and she just closed it like it was a bag."
When Robledo removed her pet from the overhead bin at the end of the flight she discovered her dog was dead.
"She was holding her dog and rocking back and forth. Her daughter was also crying,” fellow passenger Maggie Gremminger told PEOPLE about the "absolutely horrible" moment.
STUDENT CLAIMS SPIRIT TOLD HER TO FLUSH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT HAMSTER
College student Belen Aldecosea told PEOPLE she was assured by Spirit Airlines that she could bring her emotional support hamster Pebbles on a flight.
When the 21-year-old arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport with Pebbles she says airline employees told her the hamster was not allowed on the plane, even as an emotional support animal. Aldecosea also claims one of the employees told her to flush the hamster down the toilet or let it go outside if she wanted to get on her flight.
The owner made the difficult decision to flush her hamster, worried that Pebbles would meet a painful death if released outside.
Spirit Airlines confirms that one of their representatives gave Aldecosea the wrong information regarding the airline's policy on rodents, but told PEOPLE that they are confident an employee would never tell a traveler to flush their pet.
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT PEACOCK BOOTED FROM UNITED FLIGHT
This story got the internet squawking. United Airlines turned away a woman and her emotional support peacock, refusing to let the woman board with the bird.
“The animal did not meet United’s guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart told PEOPLE about the incident. "We explained this to the customer … the peacock did not meet the guidelines for an emotional support animal."
Even with this early warning from United, the passenger still tried to board with the bird, but did not make it past the airport lobby before she was told the animal was not allowed.
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOG BITES GIRL'S FACE ON SOUTHWEST FLIGHT
A dog brought on a Southwest flight as an emotional support animal bit a young girl who attempted to pet it during the boarding process.
The child was treated for a minor scrape on the forehead and was cleared to fly. The emotional support dog and its owner left the flight.
This incident raised questions yet again about the safety of emotional support animals and whether they should be allowed on airplanes without any prior training or behavior tests.
DELTA CHANGES PET POLICY
In response to an uptick in pet behavior problems on its flights in 2017, Delta decided to get more stringent with its pet policy.
Now, anyone traveling with a pet on Delta will have to provide the airline with proof of their animal's vaccinations and their pet's health record at least 48 hours before they fly. This applies to emotional support animals and service animal,s as well.
In addition, pet owners also have to sign a behavior voucher that states their pet will behave on the flight.
Brad Hibbard, Director of Training at both the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, told PEOPLE that this is an issue for many with service animals, who have been flying without problems for years.
“There are issues there for our graduates and graduates from other assistance dog programs. You’re making things onerous for them. They have to upload documents for Delta for their trip 48 hours prior and provide all this paper work that they have to keep with them,” Hibbard said. “If they are in a situation where a flight gets cancelled, now they have to work with the airline to figure that out.”