United Airlines Reaches Settlement With Family Of Suffocated Puppy

Nine-month-old French Bulldog puppy Kokito died in March on a United Airlines flight from Houston to LaGuardia after a flight attendant insisted the puppy travel in the overhead compartment. The dog suffocated, and United suspended all transportation of pets under its PetSafe plan to review policy and procedures.

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The settlement terms with the Queens, NY family are unknown.

The flight attendant in question with the incident said that she didn’t know there was a dog in the travel bag, though the Cebellos family said they told the attendant there was a dog in the bag. Still, the attendant insisted the dog go in the overhead bin, and Sophia Cebellos said that though she felt uneasy, she trusted the flight attendant would not tell her to put the dog in a situation where there was no air.

Sadly, that was not the case, and a necropsy report by Cornell University deemed the cause of death for the puppy as suffocation.

The family’s attorney, Evan Oshan, argued that the death was 100% avoidable, as the family had paid for Kokito to travel as a pet on board, and told the attendant that there was a dog. Additionally, witnesses also claimed it was obvious there was a dog in the carrier, and many could hear the whimpers of the puppy at the beginning of the flight.

Related: Study: United Airline Responsible For Half Of Animal Injury and Death on Planes

Oshan said that it’s abhorrent that the attendant let that happen, and essentially forced the family to bear witness to the suffocation and entombing of a beloved family member who was treated like a common piece of luggage.

United’s review of their PetSafe program has brought on new changes, and they partnered with Animal Humane to better assist pets traveling with families. As part of the resumed PetSafe operations, however, they are banning 20 breeds from their transport list, including French Bulldogs, as they are prone to breathing problems.


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