Can you imagine paying an airline $1800 to fly your dog (not including the airplane tickets for yourself by the way), then your dog ending up at your destination dead? That's exactly what happened to supermodel Maggie Rizer's beautiful Golden Retriever, Bea, on a United Airlines flight from New-York City to San Francisco. On her blog Bea Makes Three Maggie posted this:
Two weeks ago, on our way back to San Francisco after a great summer vacation on the east coast, Beatrice lost her life due to the negligence of United Airlines. I’m writing this with my anger aside, in the hopes that someone looking for advice will read this and not make the mistake of trusting United with their pets as we did.
Beatrice had a perfect health record. She received a full examination and a health certificate four days before the flight, as is required by the Pet Safe program. This program is United’s branded on-board pet safety program. In addition to Pet Safe’s stringent requirements, we took every extra precaution we could think of. Both the dog’s kennels were labeled front to back with emergency numbers, flight information and warnings. Their kennels were purchased specifically for the measurements and design specified by Pet Safe. We purchased special water bowls which we filled with ice to ensure that the water wouldn’t spill and that it would last longer. We drove the six hours to New York City from our house in Northern New York State, so the dogs wouldn’t have to make a connecting flight. We paid United Airlines $1800.00, in addition to our plane tickets, to ensure the safety of our pets. Albert and Bea were very prepared travelers.
When we arrived in San Francisco to pick up our dogs we drove to the dark cargo terminal and on arrival in the hanger were told simply, “one of them is dead” by the emotionless worker who seemed more interested in his text messages. It took thirty minutes for a supervisor to come to tell us, “it was the two year old.” Subsequently we requested that our dog be returned to us and were told that she had been delivered to a local vet for an autopsy. Whatever thread of trust remained between us and United broke and we then insisted that she be returned to us for our own autopsy by our trusted veterinarian, Shann Ikezawa, DVM from Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. Over the next two hours the supervisor’s lie unraveled as it became clear that Bea was right behind a closed door the whole time and he had been discussing how to handle the potential liability with his boss who had left and sticking to the divert and stall tactic that they had been taught. Eventually Bea was returned and we drove her to the vet at midnight.
Maggie was obviously very through and Bea was a perfectly healthy dog. What is most ridiculous about the situation is not only United Airlines negligence but the way they have gone about handling it. Well… not handling! Maggie continues:
It will be two weeks since Beatrice was killed by United Airlines and since then United has refused to give us any information about what happened to our beloved little Bea other then, “our internal investigation does not show any irregularities, as evidenced by the fact that your companion dog and other animals on board did not suffer the same fate”. I’m not sure why the fact that the other dogs were not killed clears United Airlines but, they seem to think it does.
Of the many reasons I don't fly United, this now just gives me another reason to NEVER fly with them. It's clear United is more worried about a lawsuit (which Maggie should definitely pursue at this point in my opinion) then actually telling the Rizers' useful information, issuing an apology, or giving them Bea.
I am writing this to help make people aware that airlines are incapable of ensuring the safety of our pets. All it takes is for one employee to not follow the proper procedure and then like me, your dog is dead.
I can’t say exactly what happened to Beatrice on the plane two weeks ago. If United had been able to be honest, it would have helped us to find closure. All I know is what the necropsy told us, Beatrice died from heatstroke. It is said to be an agonizing death.
I can't imagine how heartbreaking this must be for Maggie and her family, since the death of Bea could have been easily avoided. If you read the entire post on Maggie's blog you can clearly see the airline was extremely embarrassed and obviously was/is flustered by the situation. I am not sure what United expects to happen with such poor handling of this situation though
The story was been picked up by the auto blog Jalopnik and several other major new publications. Maggie's post has 191 comments. 1800 Facebook likes, and 207 Tweets as of this writing.
I can only hope that the story gains more steam and more people hear about it. I would be furious is this happened to Cody or Sierra.
Rest in Peace Bea