I-Team: Airline pet safety - WNEM TV 5

I-Team: Airline pet safety

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(Source: Kathleen Considine) (Source: Kathleen Considine)

A Michigan woman recently made headlines when her dog died after making a flight across the country.

"Absolutely heartbreaking. It still doesn't make sense. I still cry every day for him and I feel like he was taken from me," said Kathleen Considine, pet owner.

Considine is mourning the loss of her best friend and companion - a 7-year-old golden retriever named Jacob.

"The Jacob I knew was a 7-year-old and completely healthy, super excited, very active, couldn't calm down most of the time," Considine said.

She grew up in Dearborn, but recently moved to Portland. Once she was settled she sent for Jacob.

Considine's mom dropped Jacob off at Detroit Metro Airport so he could join her, but the trip from Detroit to Portland turned into a nightmare for both Jacob and Considine.

"When he got to Chicago for his hour layover they found that his crate wouldn't fit on his connecting flight and it wouldn't fit on another plane for 20 more hours. So he had to stay in a kennel for 20 hours. We didn't know where he was, who was taking care of him and what was going on. We didn't get a lot of information," Considine said.

A trip that should have lasted half a day took more than 20 hours. Considine said the consequences were deadly.

She described seeing Jacob for the first time after her boyfriend picked him up from the airport.

"I could tell right away that Jacob wasn't himself. He was totally out of it, had a hard time walking, didn't really get excited to see me," Considine said.

She immediately rushed him to the vet.

"They started CPR and lost him after eight minutes. The vet said it was bloat, which is a disorder that couple happen anytime and definitely in larger dogs and its due to overeating or stress," Considine said.

Considine said she has no idea what exactly happened while Jacob was in the airline's care. While she knows she can't prove it, she still feels very strongly the airline is at fault.

"Their lies that led up to it and the fact that he had to stay 20 hours extra, I know he was terrified and that definitely could be a huge cause of what happened. So yes, I feel like it could've been prevented," Considine said.

In response, United Airlines released a statement saying "We worked to ensure Jacob's comfort throughout his entire journey and he showed no signs of distress nor behaved in a way that would suggest he was unwell while in our care."

How can you ensure something like that won't happen to your four-legged friend?

The I-Team learned the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't have set rules for things like this, aside from those traveling with service dogs. The FAA leaves it up to the individual airlines.

The I-Team took a look at two of the biggest airlines, Delta and United. Their policies are very similar.

If you have a little dog you can fit in a small crate then you can take them on the plane with you to your seat. However, if you're traveling with a bigger dog, like Jacob, you may be taking a risk.

Your large dog would be loaded into a large crate and put in the cargo area with all of the other luggage. Just like the other luggage, once your dog is checked in they are completely separated from you and sometimes may even end up on a different flight.

If there is a layover, similar to Considine's situation, there is nothing you can do.

That is why she is speaking out. She wants others to be aware of the risk.

"I wouldn't do it unless it was absolutely 100 percent your only option," Considine said.

Considine has vowed to continue sharing Jacob's story with the world, despite the airline's attempt to buy her silence by offering to pay all of Jacob's vet bills.

"I got sent a non-disclosure agreement that I had to sign in order to get that check, which obviously I did not sign," Considine said.

She said Jacob deserved more.

"Our pets are worth way more than whatever money you want to give me," Considine said.

The FAA does let travelers know what to do, and not to do, when flying with pets. 

For that information, click here

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