A criminal investigation has been launched following the death of a puppy after being forced into an overhead bin on a United Airlines flight.
Catalina Robleldo and her 11-year-old daughter Sophia Ceballo were travelling from Houston to New York with their 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito, on Monday.
According to witness statements, a flight attendant ordered the family to place their airline-approved pet carrier inside the overhead bin with Kokito inside, which led to the puppy’s death.
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The family heard the dog barking for two hours of the three-and-a-half hour flight. Upon landing, Kokito was found dead.
Following this seemingly avoidable tragedy, a criminal probe has been launched and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas is working with the county’s animal cruelty task force to investigate Kokito’s death.
Prosecutors won’t decide if criminal charges are warranted until the investigation is complete.
CBS reports Sophia has now spoken out about her beloved pet:
He was a really special dog. It’s just sad the way he has to, just leave.
Sophia related how the family had protested, but had been ultimately forced to follow the flight attendant’s instructions:
[We said] ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ He can’t breathe up there.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it still goes up there…. She felt the dog and she put him up there.
Sophia also recalled how they wanted to check on Kokito during the flight but were prevented from doing so:
We tried, but there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up.
Another passenger, June Lara, described how Catalina had attempted to resuscitate her motionless pet:
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.
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 realised he was gone…
This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath.
United Airlines released a statement saying it was a ‘tragic accident that should never have occurred’ and reiterated that ‘pets should never be placed in the overhead bin’.
The airline took ‘full responsibility’ and expressed their ‘deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them’.
They said they were are thoroughly investigating what occurred and to prevent it from happening again they will be introducing ‘bright coloured bag tags’ to customers traveling with pets in the cabin.
“Barking just stopped” French Bulldog puppy Kokito is dead tonight after a @united flight attendant placed him in overhead bin on flight from IAH to NYC. Tonight hear from that puppy’s owner in a heartbreaking interview about what happened. Don’t miss it on #KHOU11 at 10. pic.twitter.com/cXh4cZLv8e
— Marcelino Benito (@MarcelinoKHOU) March 14, 2018
The Federal Aviation Administration is also looking into the incident and will ‘review the airline’s investigation’, FAA spokesman Greg Martin said.
Last year, 18 animals died while being transported on United Airlines, which is three-fourths of all animal deaths on US carriers, according to the Department of Transportation.
Let’s hope they clean their act up so no more innocent animals have to die.