The French bulldog puppy, named Kokito, was a birthday present to an 11-year-old girl.
A French bulldog puppy on a United Airlines flight died after a flight attendant pressured its owner to store her pet in the overhead bin. United has had the most pet deaths on airlines in the last three years.
On a four-hour flight from Houston to New York, Catelina Robledo was traveling with three children and their pet, who they brought into the cabin. (United Airlines allows owners to bring pets into the cabin for a US$125 pet cabin fee, so log as they are in kennels that fit under the seat.)
The dog was in a carrier sticking out into the aisle, and a flight attendant instructed Robledo that she had to move it to the overhead compartment, CNBC reports.
Though overhead compartments aren't airtight, many speculate that the dog died from lack of oxygen.
French bulldogs are brachycephalic, which means they have short nasal passages that make them vulnerable to respiratory problems and heat stroke.
United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in a statement that the flight attendant "did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin," but eyewitnesses say that the owner repeatedly said that it was a dog.
"I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin," passenger Maggie Gremminger told travel website One Mile at a Time.
"The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag. The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it, and she eventually complied."
Robledo's daughter, 11-year-old Sophie Ceballos, told CBS that her mom had clearly told the flight attendant that it was a dog.
"My mom was like, 'It's a dog, it's a dog,' He can't breathe up there," said Ceballos, who got the dog as a birthday present. "And she said, 'It doesn't matter, it still goes up there... She felt the dog and she put him up there."
The dog barked for two hours until he finally fell silent.
One other eyewitness, June Lara, shared her account of the incident on Facebook:
"There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10-month-old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone."
Some blamed the mother for not checking on the dog during the flight, but Robledo explains that she wasn't able to get up because she was holding a baby.
"The dog barked and barked but I could not stand," Robledo told Telemundo in Spanish, reports BBC.
Her daughter told CBS that they weren't allowed to stand because of bad turbulence throughout the flight.
United Airlines has taken full responsibility for what they have called a "tragic accident". The airline will start issuing brightly coloured bag tags for pet carriers this April.
United Airlines has given the family a refund for their tickets and the cabin fee.
Do you travel with pets? How does this story of pet deaths on airlines make you feel?
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