New York State Senator Calls for Criminal Investigation into United Airlines Dog Death and Introduces 'Kokito's Law'
In the latest update to the tragic story of a French bulldog’s death aboard a recent United Airlines flight, a New York legislator is launching an investigation into the incident in which a family was told by a flight attendant to store their pet in an overhead bin.
New York State Senator Marisol Alcantara is proposing an Animal Bill of Rights for all N.Y.C. airports as justice for Kokito, the 10-month-old pup who died. The new legislation is expected to explicitly state that pets and animals are not allowed to be stowed in overhead compartments. Proper climate control, as well as proper ventilation in cabins whereby pets are transported separately from their owners, are additional provisions that will be included within the rights bill. Additionally, airline employees will be required to receive pet safety training. According to CBS New York, Alcantara is calling the bill “Kokito’s Law.”
On March 15, New York State Senator Alcantara (D-Manhattan) released a statement, which included a message she’d sent in a letter to United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz:
“In addition, I am calling on the District Attorney to launch a criminal investigation into Kokito’s death. Your airline’s contention that the flight attendant did not know there was a dog in the carrier is outrageous. The passenger and her young daughter repeatedly told the attendant about the dog. However, your attendant took no action to address their concerns or check the bag for the animal. Obviously, passengers do not bring dog carriers on a plane as a carry-on item without bringing their pets. This ridiculous assertion should not, and will not hold up in criminal court. I will do everything in my power to assist the DA in using every legal remedy available to bring justice to this family.”
Meanwhile, the Robledo family attended a protest at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Sunday, where a crowd — which included animal rights activists, lawmakers and many pets — assembled to call for better conditions and protections regarding animals traveling on airplanes. According to AMNY.com, a lawyer representing the Robledos claims the family is also demanding a criminal prosecution.
“Animals clearly need a Passenger Bill of Rights, especially if they are going to fly on United. My dog is family and that Kokito was subjected to cruel and intolerable treatment that no living creature should be subjected to is horrifying. We will get to the bottom of what’s happening at this airline, and I hope the District Attorney opens a criminal investigation immediately,”New York State Senator Alcantara said of the incident, according to the New York State Senate’s website.
Last week, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana announced on Twitter that he had also written a letter to United Airlines calling for an “immediate explanation” for the number of animals who have died recently in the airlines’ care.
In his letter, the Republican senator cited U.S. Department of Transportation data stating that “18 of the 24 animals who died in major U.S. airlines’ care last year were in the care of United.”
A United representative said the airline plans to change its pet travel policy to ensure something like what happened to Kokito never occurs again.
“To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin,” Maggie Schmerin said in her statement to PEOPLE.
United received further backlash on Monday when it put a dog on the wrong plane, the second such incident of its kind in one week. In addition to Kokito’s tragic death, news came to light last Wednesday that the airline has also accidentally switched up the travel plans of two dogs and sent one pet to Japan when he was supposed to go on a much shorter flight to Kansas City.