Just two days after DogTime.com wrote about the in-flight death of model Maggie Rizer’s Golden Retriever, Beatrice, a second dog has been reported dead following a cross-country flight on United Airlines.
Bam Bam, a 3-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff, was a seasoned traveler, making trips from Miami to San Francisco with his owner, Michael Jarboe.
“He was such a good dog,” Jarboe told WSVN Channel 7 News of his gentle giant, Bam Bam. “We had zero problems, zero aggression, and zero dog problems. I mean everything was set.”
But sadly, the United Airlines flight the pair took in August would be their last.
When the plane made a layover stop in Houston, per the stipulations in the United Airlines PetSafe program, Bam Bam was supposed to be taken to a temperature-controlled area since the layover would last for more than 45 minutes and it was well over the minimum 85 degrees outside. “It was 95 degrees in Houston in the shade,” Jarboe explained, “so I don’t even know what it was on the tarmac.”
Before the plane left Miami earlier that day, Jarboe says that he watched as a van transported Bam Bam and his crate to the plane, so he assumed that United would follow their own PetSafe protocols and take Bam Bam someplace where he could keep cool.
But as Jarboe looked outside just before takeoff in Houston, he was shocked at what he saw. There was Bam Bam’s crate tucked onto a luggage carrier — not an air conditioned van. “It was right under the wing,” Jarboe says of the luggage carrier. He remembers the horror he felt as he watched Bam Bam suffer in the oppressive Houston heat.
“We were right there, had a direct shot, he was so hot. His tongue was hanging down,” Jarboe said of Bam Bam. “Never, ever, have I seen him that hot. What United promised us is an air conditioned cargo facility and an air conditioned cargo van.”
Jarboe was overcome with worry and anger as the plane took off for San Francisco. All he could think about was if Bam Bam was all right.
But Bam Bam was anything but safe in the cargo area below. When Jarboe landed in San Francisco, he was met by a group of United Airlines employees, including an attorney. Bam Bam had died during the flight from Houston to San Francisco.
“The guy came out, a bunch of them and said, ‘I’m sorry he didn’t make it,’ and it’s so surreal,” Jarboe remembers of when he first learned that Bam Bam had died. Jarboe says that he was in disbelief: “What do you mean? We just put him on, we put him on…he was fine.”
United Airlines agreed to refund the $650 Jarboe had paid for Bam Bam’s plane ticket. They offered additional compensation, but he refused, overcome with grief after the loss of his best friend. They have also offered him vouchers for future flights, which Jarboe says he will not take.
United Airlines paid for a necropsy of Bam Bam’s body, and a heart attack is the official cause of death listed in the letter Jarboe received. United has since taken the position that they are not at fault for Bam Bam’s death.
But Michael Jarboe was not satisfied, the image of Bam Bam panting heavily in the excessive heat playing over and over in his mind.
When he pressed an airline employee for information on exactly what happened to his dog, Jarboe learned something infuriating: “For layovers under four hours, they go in this holding area with a fan and a cross breeze,” said Jarboe, which is something quite different from what is required in the PetSafe plan.
United Airlines released an official statement to WSVN Channel 7 News, which further distances them from any wrongdoing. “Given the size of Bam Bam and the fact that he is brachycephalic, meaning short-nosed breed, we made the decision to bring him to our holding facility for greater comfort during his connection. Our holding facilities are USDA animal welfare-approved by trained pet safe personnel,” the airline assures, though the news channel points out that the statement did not confirm nor deny that their facilities are equipped with air conditioning.