LOUISBURG, Kan. – United Airlines has called it a “tragic accident,” but people are outraged, including a metro woman who has spent her career raising French bulldogs.
A French bulldog died Monday in an overhead bin on a flight from Houston to New York after the dog’s owners said a flight attendant required the family to put the pet in an overhead bin.
“I’m not sure that any dog would have survived that because there’s no airflow up there at all," Jan Budenz said. "I mean, that’s like locking them in a car.”
Budenz has run Bodacious Bulldogs in Kansas for 15 years, and she has plenty experience with them on planes.
“You know that overheating is a problem, especially sitting even under the seats, but up in the overhead? I can’t even imagine, and that’s never protocol for an airline, never," she said.
United's pet policy reads as follows: “A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
Budenz believes the dog died of heatstroke.
“Dogs cool themselves by panting," she said. "They draw in air, and it cools their body off as it goes through that airway. Well, their airways are so short that (if) you breathe in hot air, all it does is get hotter and hotter and hotter.”
Some passengers of the flight reported the dog barked for more than half of the nearly four-hour flight -- before going silent.
“I would’ve stood up and opened the bin and said, 'You know, kick me off the flight. I don’t care,'" Budenz said. "I can’t even fathom that people sat there while that poor puppy cried."
The Kansas breeder said her French bulldog Tilley will get some extra hugs tonight.
“They’re amazing dogs," she said.
After the dog died, passengers said the flight attendant said she didn’t realize there was a dog in the crate.
Data show United Airlines has the worst rate of pet deaths the last three years. Last year, 18 animals died on board United planes, including a Flemish giant rabbit en route to Kansas City.
United Airlines released the following statement in response to the dog's death:
"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."