Maggie Rizer recently arranged for her two dogs to fly with her from New York to San Francisco. The model was sure she took all of the precautions necessary, so when she arrived in San Francisco and found out that one of her dogs had passed away during the flight, she was left devastated and shocked. The dog, who she called “Sweet Bea,” was just two years old.
Maggie had booked two reservations for Bea and her other dog, 7-year-old Arthur, through United Airlines’s PetSafe program. Just days prior to the flight, she even had the pup checked by her veterinarian, who found her to be in perfect health. In addition, golden retrievers don’t typically have any issues flying. No one could explain what had happened to her.
The incident occurred on September 3 when Maggie, her husband, and their 10-month-old son flew to the West Coast. Upon their arrival, they were told “one of them is dead” by an emotionless United Airlines employee who, according to Maggie, seemed to be more concerned with his text messages than their tragic loss. She wasn’t even informed about which of the dogs had died until 30 minutes later. Maggie immediately requested that Bea be returned to her, but according to staff, she had already been transferred to a local veterinarian.
After two hours had passed, it became clear that Bea hadn’t been taken anywhere. The United Airlines employees seemed to be trying to buy time as they discussed how they should handle the potential liability issues. Once Bea was returned to Maggie, she and her husband drove her to their vet.
After their veterinarian had examined the dog, it was determined that she had died as a result of a heatstroke which Maggie says was “the absolute worst thing I could have imagined happening to her.” She adds, “She died 30 feet below us, alone and scared. Nobody was there to help her because someone made a mistake.”
“We’re completely devastated,” Maggie tells PEOPLE magazine. “[The airline] didn’t even have an excuse.”
In a statement given to PEOPLE, United Airlines says, “We understand that the loss of a beloved pet is difficult and express our condolences to Ms. Rizer and her family for their loss. After careful review, we found there were no mechanical operational issues with Bea’s flight and also determined she was in a temperature-controlled environment for her entire journey. We would like [to] finalize the review but are unable until we receive a copy of the necropsy.”
“I’ll miss her loving soul,” Maggie says of her beloved dog Bea. “She was one of a kind. I’ve never had a dog like her. You can’t replace a dog, especially one like that.” Since Bea’s passing, Maggie has adopted a new dog, a rescue named Jack. “I have no idea what he is. You just have this hole and you try to fill it – and it’s impossible to fill.”
While Maggie considered filing a law suit against United Airlines, she hasn’t yet. For now, she just wants to spread the word about the dangers of traveling with a pet. She concluded her emotional blog entry with these words:
I can’t say exactly what happened to Beatrice on the plane two weeks ago. If United had been able to be honest, it would have helped us to find closure. All I know is what the necropsy told us, Beatrice died from heatstroke. It is said to be an agonizing death.
Beatrice should have been happy, healthy and spoiled with us for years and years to come.
Please don’t make the mistake I made that cost our dog her life. Please, don’t trust that an airline will truly care and provide safety to your beloved pet. At some point in the two hours that Bea was in the care of United Airlines before she died, someone made a mistake and because of that, our loving, happy sweet Bea is no longer in our lives.
I will miss her forever.