United Airlines Killed Our Golden Retriever, Bea
Beatrice, the pick of the 2010 Rizer Goldens litter was generously given to us as a wedding gift. It was a very happy time for us and her addition to our family added to that joy tremendously. Beatrice was a very special gift because she was so much more than just a dog. She was full of light and happiness that you could truly see when she pranced into a room. Bea’s heart and her funny quirks inspired me to write this blog. I called her my Sweet-Bea.
When we first got Bea, the intention was to show her. Her lineage was quite impressive and her potential as a show dog was thought to be endless. Unfortunately for Bea’s career, her heart melted ours and the thought of her being on the road at shows, away from us, was too much to bear. Beatrice was our little lap dog and her place was with us, at home. Still, the demand for Bea’s puppies was high and we had planned to breed her. In the upcoming months she was to be bred to Baker (a.k.a “Nautilus Boston Baked Beans” a US and Canadian champion) with whom the puppies would have been remarkable.
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 labeled 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. Albert and Bea were very prepared travelers.
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 thirty 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 Center. Over the next two hours the supervisor’s lie unraveled 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. Dr. Spangler also said that “in my experience it is not unusual for a single dog in airline transit to be affected while other dogs of the same breed survive the trip apparently unscathed.”
It will be two weeks since Beatrice was killed by United Airlines and since then United has refused to give us any information about what happened to our beloved little Bea other then, “our internal investigation does not show any irregularities, as evidenced by the fact that your companion dog and other animals on board did not suffer the same fate”. I’m not sure why the fact that the other dogs were not killed clears United Airlines but, they seem to think it does.
They had nothing to say about the fact that the plane had been turned off (for at least fifteen minutes each time) twice before take-off in Newark, nor did they have anything to say when I requested information about her placement in the plane or about baggage being packed around her. United Airlines additionally called our veterinarian and fabricated a story about having an email from me, authorizing them to obtain the necropsy results. This, after I specifically told them that we would release the results to them at our discretion.
Aside from being completely emotionally distraught over the loss of our little Bea, I am so saddened by the complete lack of competence, honesty and compassion that United has shown. I am not writing this to start a lawsuit or to get anyone to stop flying United. I am writing this to help make people aware that airlines are incapable of ensuring the safety of our pets. All it takes is for one employee to not follow the proper procedure and then like me, your dog is dead.
I can’t say exactly what happened to Beatrice on the plane two weeks ago. If United had been able to be honest, it would have helped us to find closure. All I know is what the necropsy told us, Beatrice died from heatstroke. It is said to be an agonizing death.
Beatrice should have been happy, healthy and spoiled with us for years and years to come.
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. At some point in the two hours that Bea was in the care of United Airlines before she died, someone made a mistake and because of that, our loving, happy sweet Bea is no longer in our lives.
I will miss her forever.
Thank you for supporting beamakesthree over the past few years, I greatly appreciate it and have really enjoyed everyone’s comments. This will be the last post.
Bea deserved so much more.