United Airlines plane © Gorgios - Dreamstime.com

Criminal Investigation Launched In Dog Death On United Flight; Airline To Use Special Tags For Pet Carriers

March 15, 2018 - 8:41 am

CHICAGO (1010 WINS/AP) -- A criminal investigation has been launched into a dog's death aboard a Houston-to-New York United Airlines flight after a flight attendant ordered the animal be placed in the plane's overhead bin.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the Harris County, Texas, district attorney's office said its animal cruelty division is working with the county's animal cruelty task force to investigate the incident that occurred on the Monday night flight.

The statement said prosecutors won't decide if criminal charges are warranted until the investigation is completed.

One traveler tweeted, "now they're abusing and murdering animals."

The 10-month-old French Bulldog named Kokito was dead in his carrier when the family landed at LaGuardia.

United claims Kokito's death was a tragic accident, that the flight attendant saw a bag blocking the aisle and did not know there was a dog in it. The owner's 11-year-old daughter Sophia said her mother told the attendant.

"We're like, 'it's a dog, it's a dog,' and she's like, 'it doesn't matter, you still have to put it up there," Sophia Ceballos said.

Her mother claims the flight attendant felt the bag. Other passengers contradict the airline's account, saying the dog's barks were audible from inside the bin.

United said it plans to issue bright colored bag tags to people traveling with pets to prevent animal carriers from being placed in overhead bins following Kokito's death.

The Chicago-based airline says a flight attendant who ordered the passenger to put her pet carrier in the overhead bin aboard a Houston-to-New York flight Monday didn't know there was a dog inside.

United said in a statement it will start issuing the tags by April.