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‘Pets are not luggage:’ Family, leaders, pets demand justice for Kokito at LaGuardia Airport

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EAST ELMHURST, Queens — Local leaders and pets participated in a “dog-in” Saturday, March 17 at LaGuardia Airport, demanding justice for the dog who died on a United Airlines flight on March 12.

According to FOX6's sister station PIX11, Kokito’s family was joined by Sen. Marisol Alcantara (D-N.Y.), the ASPCA, animal rights activists and pets in Queens to protest United Airlines after the death of the 10-month-old French bulldog.

“I feel devastated. Every night I cry because it feels really empty without him," said Sophia Ceballos, 11, who hasn't been the same since her puppy died.

During the “dog-in,” legislation was unveiled to create a new Pet Passenger Bill of Rights called Kokito’s Law.

Kokito died on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York Monday, March 12 after a flight attendant allegedly insisted Catalina Robledo put their puppy in an overhead bin.

The French bulldog was barking during the whole flight, according to multiple passenger accounts, but they did not discover that Kokito died until after the plane landed.

Since then, United Airlines has been under fire for the incident.

Senator Alcantara argued the family should not have had to put the dog in the overhead bin.

"Pets are not luggage, and they should not be put in the overhead compartment," she said.

The family's attorney said they want to know what will happen to the flight attendant involved. United said there was a miscommunication between the flight attendant and Kokito's owner. The flight attendant allegedly did not hear or understand the family when they said the dog was in the carrier.

United Airlines released a statement apologizing and taking full responsibility for the incident.
"We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin. As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support. To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin."

Kokito's death was not the first time United was involved in pet-related deaths.

Data from the US Department of Transportation shows that three times as many animals died on United flights last year than on all the other US carriers put together.

United has had the highest rate of pet deaths of any US airline for the past three years.

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