Photo by A.Frosya/wikimedia
A French bulldog like this one died during a United Airlines flight to LaGuardia Airport after a flight attendant asked the dog’s owners to put their airline-approved pet carrier into an overhead compartment because it was blocking the aisle.
By Bill Parry

The Queens District Attorney’s office is looking into the death of a dog on a LaGuardia Airport-bound United Airlines flight to see if animal cruelty charges are warranted.

Sophia Ceballos, an 11-year-old girl from Queens, was traveling with her mother and their French Bulldog named Kokito, when a flight attendant asked them to put their airline-approved pet carrier into an overhead compartment because it was blocking the aisle.

The mother, Catalina Robledo, told the attendant there was a dog in the carrier. Passenger Maggie Gremminger sat one row behind and began posting on Twitter.

“The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag,” she tweeted. “The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it and she eventually complied.”

Sometime during United Flight 1284 from Houston to New York, Kokito died.

“At the end of the flight, the woman found her dog — deceased.” Gremminger tweeted. “She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned.”

A spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said, “We are currently reviewing the facts to determine if there is a prosecutable case.”

United Airlines is accepting full responsibility calling the incident “a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” in a statement. The cause of the dog’s death was not immediately known, according to an United spokesman and the airline is investigating the incident and had reimbursed the family for the cost of their tickets as well as the $125 pet cabin fee.

“We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement adding it would implement a new policy in April in which it will issue brightly colored tags to carriers transporting animals

United ranked first in animal deaths among American carriers last year with 18 animals killed and 13 injured, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced bi-partisan legislation which calls on the Federal Aviation Administration to block airline from placing animals in overhead bins and impose fines for violation. The measure is called the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act, known by the acronym WOOFF.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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