When it rains, it pours. As if the viral story of the disgruntled United pilot removed from her flight was not enough, now United has more bad press to contend with: a woman who claims United is responsible for the death of her golden retriever.
Kathleen Considine shared grim details on Facebook about a recent airplane trip involving her 7-year-old dog Jacob. You can read the full story here, but I’ve excerpted key parts–
Jacob was supposed to fly from Detroit to Portland with a 1 hour layover in Chicago. At 80 pounds, Jacob needed a giant crate for his journey and there was question as to whether or not it would fit on the plane. The airline agent in Detroit confirmed Jacob would fit on his first and second flight, no question.
Jacob went for a MANDATORY physical less than 24 hours before his flight, where he was cleared for airline travel with no previous health concerns.
When Jacob landed in Chicago, it was found that the airline agent LIED and he did not fit on the plane to Portland. He was then sent to a kennel over night, 20 HOURS, until the next flight out he could fit on.
The airline DID NOT ALLOW my mother to send food with Jacob, due to the intended short duration of his journey, even though it is mandated that the crates have a food bowl and their website states they may have a zip lock bag less than 1 pound of food attached to the top of their crate.
When Jacob finally arrived in Portland, he was disoriented and non-responsive. The United agent said the airline may have given him medication, but he didn’t know. The airline DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to give medication, especially without telling us what, when, or why.
After his three hour journey to central Oregon, Jacob was still non-responsive, and getting worse. My very best friend who I was expecting to trample me with kisses barely even acknowledged my existence. There was clearly something wrong when he landed in Portland. He was not the same dog he was when he was in Detroit.
After rushing Jacob to the emergency vet when his breathing became scarce, he was pronounced dead after 8 min of CPR. His stomach flipped due to the stress of his journey that was 20 hours longer than expected, and suffocated his organs.
Even more simply:
- Dog slated to fly from Detroit to Portland via Chicago
- Dog (70lbs) did not fit on Portland to Chicago flight and was delayed 20-hours at O’Hare in a United-operated kennel
- It is not clear if he had food or water during this layover
- He arrived in Portland lethargic and virtually non-responsive
- Owner drove three hours to the vet where he died after eight minutes of CPR
- United Airlines has assumed ‘zero responsibility’ for the death of the dog
Is United Really At Fault?
Such a tough issue. What is not clear to me is who was flying with the dog — was it the owner, someone else, or was the dog just being transported? I am assuming the latter since Considine would likely not have left the dog in Chicago had she also been traveling. It appears her mother shipped the dog to her.
Is it possible that the older dog may have just been unable to withstand the journey even though United took great care of it? Of course. My neighbor had a golden retriever when I was growing up that we treated as our own. Though loved, she only lived to be seven, dying of natural causes. The average lifespan of a golden retriever is 10-12 years. Perhaps this trip was like putting a middle-aged person on a wild roller coaster followed by an encore.
But I take Considine at her word when she says the dog was perfectly fine prior to the trip and arrived in terrible shape. The fact that the dog was not boarded on the planned flight to Portland and had to languish in Chicago O’Hare for 20 hours is a damning piece of evidence. Further, apparently Considine’s mother attempted to send food and was denied. If that is true, it seemingly creates another strike against United.
In a statement, United Airlines said:
We were saddened to hear of Jacob’s passing after we returned him to the care of his owner. Our PetSafe team is committed to the safety and comfort of all the pets that travel with us.
We worked to ensure Jacob’s comfort throughout his entire journey and he showed no signs of distress nor behave in a way that would suggest he was unwell while in our care.
Though we understand little can ease the grief that accompanies the loss of a pet, we’ve been in touch with Ms. Considine to offer our condolences and discuss this matter further.
In other words — not our fault!
I don’t know what to make of this in terms of fault, but my heart breaks for Considine. I do not currently own a dog and do not plan to own one, but if I did I would certainly think twice before checking her on to a connecting flight. The internet is full of similar horror stories.
ETA: I didn’t notice last night, but Gary also covers this in a more personal way.