Model Maggie Rizer got an awful surprise after getting off a United Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco two weeks ago: Her beloved 2-year-old golden retriever, Bea, who was traveling with her, had not survived the journey.
In a post on her blog, Bea Makes Three, Rizer said that she did everything she could do ensure her pets’ safety during the flight by following all of United’s regulations as outlined by their Pet Safe program, as well as providing Bea and her other dog, Albert, with plenty of water to last them the flight and driving six hours out of her way so the dogs wouldn’t have to make a connection. However, when Rizer got to San Francisco, she was told that “one of them is dead”.
As if that weren’t sufficiently awful, a United employee lied to Rizer about Bea’s whereabouts, saying that she had already been taken for an autopsy. Rizer demanded that Bea be returned to her so she could take the dog to her own vet for an autopsy, and the employee stalled her — the truth was that the employee was trying to buy some time while discussing how to handle liability issues with his boss. This is what Rizer had to say about the ordeal:
William Spangler DVM, PhD performed Beatrice’s necropsy (a dog autopsy). From the findings, it is Dr. Spangler’s opinion that Beatrice’s death was from heatstroke. Our little Beatrice died in pain, scared and alone. Dr. Spangler also said that “in my experience it is not unusual for a single dog in airline transit to be affected while other dogs of the same breed survive the trip apparently unscathed.” … Aside from being completely emotionally distraught over the loss of our little Bea, I am so saddened by the complete lack of competence, honesty and compassion that United has shown. I am not writing this to start a lawsuit or to get anyone to stop flying United. 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.
As dog lovers, this really, really upsets us, and we think it raises some question about whether it’s truly safe to fly with pets at all. At any rate, what happened to Rizer is horrific, and United should have showed her more compassion and respected her wishes after the fact. While there is absolutely nothing the airline can do to make it OK, an apology is most definitely in order. Our heart goes out to Rizer and we hope that, in some way, justice is served for Bea.