ARLINGTON, Va. (CBS News) — Outrage has been building on social media over a picture of a family’s French bulldog puppy, dead in its carrier, after a United Airlines flight attendant forced them to put the bag holding the dog in an overhead bin.

The dog belonged to a mother traveling with two young children from Houston to New York’s LaGuardia Airport Monday night. Before takeoff, the bag apparently extended into the aisle. Online posts from witnesses said the passenger explained there was a dog in the bag, but the flight attendant insisted it go in the overhead.

Shortly after boarding United Flight 1284 to New York’s LaGuardia, a passenger was told to place the French bulldog, called “Papacito,” and its carrier in the overhead, June Lara, a passenger sitting nearby reportedly said.

The flight attendants “felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water,” Lara wrote on Facebook. “They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.”

The scenario violates the carrier’s policy, which states in part: “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.”

That flight attendant reportedly told the airline she did not realize the pet was inside.

“There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name,” Lara wrote. “I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone.”

Another passenger on the flight posted a photo on Twitter of the dog’s owner and children after the plane had arrived in New York. “I want to help this woman and her daughter,” she wrote. “They lost their dog because of an [U]nited flight attendant. My heart is broken.”

United says this is a tragic accident that should never have occurred, adding “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.”

This month, United and Delta limited what animals are allowed in the cabin following incidents like a flier trying to bring on an emotional support peacock on board. But a small dog in a carrier that fits under the seat is typically allowed.

The airline says it’s ‘thoroughly investigating’ to prevent a situation like this from happening again. Animal deaths on planes are rare, but typically occur when a pet is being shipped as cargo, not in the passenger cabin. Meanwhile, the dog’s owner has not commented.

The puppy’s death is not the first such incident for the carrier. In 2017, United also apologized for the death of a dog that had been put in the cargo hold of a plane held for hours on a tarmac last summer. A similar incident ended in the deaths of seven puppies in 2010. The airline also was sued last summer over the death of a giant rabbit on a flight from London to Chicago.

In another public relations fiasco, United faced public backlash and congressional hearings last year for having a man dragged off a plane.


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