Model Maggie Rizer has been the face of Gap, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Calvin Klein—but now the 34-year-old is speaking out on behalf of a much less glamorous cause: pet safety during air travel.On Thursday, Rizer published a passionate blog post titled “United Airlines Killed Our Golden Retriever, Bea.”
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 labelled 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.
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 30 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 centre. Over the next two hours the supervisor’s lie unravelled 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.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.
To read the rest of the heartbreaking blog post, click here.
But United Airlines claim they followed protocol and did nothing wrong.In a statement to People magazine, the airline says:
We understand that the loss of a beloved pet is difficult and express our condolences to Ms. Rizer and her family for their loss. After careful review, we found there were no mechanical operational issues with Bea’s flight and also determined she was in a temperature-controlled environment for her entire journey. We would like [to] finalise the review but are unable until we receive a copy of the necropsy.
Rizer considered filing a lawsuit but instead hopes that by speaking out about her experience, she will help inform people about the risks of travelling with a pet in cargo.
Please don’t make the mistake I made that cost our dog her life. Please, don’t trust that an airline will truly care and provide safety to your beloved pet … I will miss her forever.
To see more adorable photos of Bea, Maggie and her family, click here.
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