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Model Maggie Rizer Claims United Airlines Killed Her Golden Retriever

September 20, 2012 at 7:59 PM | by | ()

Air travel for pets is often a precarious situation. Some airlines let Fido and Fluffy ride with their owners in the cabin, while others insist that animals go in the cargo hold. And, even if airlines are super permissive (like Pet Airways), it doesn't change the fact that animals often face health risks in the air. Take the sad story of Maggie Rizer's dog, for example.

Rizer, a well-known model and Vogue mainstay, had a golden retriever named Bea. Rizer often brought Bea around the world with her, most recently on a United Airlines flight from Newark to San Francisco. She took to her blog (heartbreakingly titled "And Bea Makes Three") to write about the pooch's death. Here is an excerpt:

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.

Rizer took Bea's body for a pet autopsy, and should know more information soon. Whatever happened, it's a sad story for everyone involved. Let's hope United rethinks their current PR strategy.

[Photo: And Bea Makes Three]

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