As Barbara Galletly waited for her plane to take off yesterday from Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, she looked out her window at the pouring rain and noticed a dog sitting in a crate on the tarmac. She notified United Airlines, but half an hour later, the dog was still there in the crate.
Outraged, Galletly snapped a photo. “Evil United Airlines leaves dog on rainy cold runway for more than a half hour despite alerts to staff. Boo,” she tweeted.
The photo has gone viral and created a PR nightmare for United Airlines, which, instead of apologizing and expressing concern, responded to Galletly’s tweet with a dismissive, “Thanks for telling us. The weather can change & may have been clear when PetSafe dropped off. They’re the ones to call too.”
PetSafe is United Airlines’ program for transporting dogs who are too large to fly inside the plane’s cabin.
In November 2013, Janet Sinclair used PetSafe to transport her Greyhound, Sedona, to Boston. Looking out her window on the plane — at that same Houston airport — Sinclair saw Sedona sitting in her crate on the tarmac, in 94-degree heat, for more than an hour. She told NBC Bay Area that Sedona suffered a severe heat stroke, but United Airlines would not pay the vet bills unless Sinclair signed a nondisclosure agreement stating she wouldn’t share the story with the media. Sinclair refused.
Earlier this year, after seeing Sinclair’s story on the news, two former PetSafe animal handlers came forward and spoke to NBC Bay Area about the neglect they had witnessed on the job, such as crates turned upside down, with the drinking water spilled.
“Bottom line is they need to change procedure,” one of the handlers said. “Change regulations for the health of the animals. Not for the sake of making money. And you know, people need to be held accountable.”
United Airlines declined to be interviewed for that story. “We know that for many of our customers their pets are like family, and that’s why we’ve worked hard to create a program that gives pets the best travel experience possible,” the company said in a statement. “All our PetSafe partners and employees are well trained in animal care and have completed a USDA-approved, customized live animal-handling course. Without providing us specifics on times, dates or locations we are unable to directly respond to or research these allegations.”
After Galletly tweeted the photo of the dog left in the rain yesterday, many Twitter users responded that they would no longer do business with United Airlines. Among them was pop singer Sia.
“I’ll never fly @United again,” she tweeted. “Thanks @theregoesbabs for exposing their shitty treatment of our beloved pets.”
Photo via Twitter