United Airlines could be in big trouble after a dog died during one of the aviation company’s flights on Tuesday, March 13. A flight attendant forced the family of a French bulldog named Papacito to leave him in the overhead bin for three hours. After prolonged, panicked barking, the 10-month-old canine died.
According to TMZ, the owner of the dog could not only get the value of the animal but money for "emotional distress suffered by the owner" under Illinois law, where United Airlines is based. The outlet also reports that Papacito’s owner "could get up to $25,000 in punitive damages if a jury determines the dog died from abuse or neglect on the part of the flight attendant."
On Tuesday, passenger June Lara quickly took to social media to detail the troubling incident in a lengthy Facebook post. "The flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. 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," she wrote. "There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. 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."
June added, "My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone. This poor family paid $125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them. There is no excuse for the pain this family is suffering. Today, I boarded my last United Airlines flight."
After receiving harsh backlash from more passengers and animal lovers alike, United Airlines took responsibility for Papacito’s tragic death. "This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin," the airline said in a statement. "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."