A Cruel And Stupid Flight Attendant, A Dead Puppy, And A Plane Full Of Sheep

The puppy passenger, before and after the flight. Guess the ventilation wasn’t so good after all…

I shouldn’t have to write very much about the ethics of the United flight attendant who forced a passenger to place the soft carrier containing her French bulldog puppy into the overhead compartment, where it was found dead after the flight. She is an idiot. She is incompetent. She was badly trained, and has no understanding or compassion for animals.

That’s easy.

Now the flight attendant is saying that she didn’t know that there was a live animal in the bag. Right.

No, I am reopening the blog, which I thought was finished for the night, to condemn the owner of the dog and every single passenger who was aware of what was going on. I am usually dubious about those who second guess bystanders who don’t interject themselves into abusive situations, but in this case, I am shocked and disgusted that no one, including the owner, made a firm stand against this obvious animal cruelty. Passengers were tweeting about how horrible it was that the puppy was being stuffed in the overhead bin. Barking could be heard during the flight. Yet not one person on board had the courage, integrity and character to stand up and forbid this abuse.

One passenger named June Lara tweeted about the incident, writing in part,

“I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky – who doesn’t when they get to sit near a puppy? However, the flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.

There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone.”

Forget the virtue-signaling: I’m not impressed with your broken heart. Why didn’t you protest? Why didn’t you, or someone, call 911 and tell the police that someone was torturing a dog on a United flight? Why didn’t you stop what you knew was wrong?

Another passenger, Maggie Gremminger, is grabbing her 15 minutes of fame by telling People,

“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her. After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above…My only thought is that if it had been me, it would have been a hard scenario. The flight attendant is the authority figure, who should be trusted. I was thinking ‘maybe there is an improved ventilation system’ or something of the sorts. Also, the owner had an infant and other daughter. Causing a scene before flight could risk being kicked off the flight. I can only imagine she felt stuck in her decision to comply.”

Why didn’t you say something, Maggie? “Improved ventilation system”? What? There NO ventilation system! Have you ever heard of animals being stored in an airplane’s overhead bin? So what if the attendant is an authority figure? Would you have let her demand that the woman’s baby be stored in the bin? After all, there an improved ventilation system…

Kitty Genovese, Medric Cecil Mills, Hugo Tale Yax, Raymond Zack, Eutisha Revee Rennix, and others left to die by unmotivated bystanders were human beings, and of course a human life is more important than a puppy. I see no difference in the ethical void demonstrated by the United passengers  and the Americans who let those people die. They all have dead ethics alarms.

These were sheep on board that plane. They refused to get involved when an obvious act of cruelty and ignorance was underway, and they had the opportunity to intervene. I don’t care if the passengers—and the other attendants: what were they doing? Why didn’t they speak up?—were timid, or busy, or what rationalizations they used. In an ethical society, we have a duty to look out for each other. We have a duty to fix problems. We have a duty to confront and oppose wrongdoing when we are in a position to do so. “Authority” is no excuse. This depraved tragedy could have been prevented if a single American on that plane did what this culture is supposed to teach and nurture us to do: take the initiative and prevent wrongdoing.  Instead these passengers were tweeting their outrage.

Watch: all the stories in tomorrows news will be about United, which has already apologized and taken full responsibility. But I knew United was a mess.

I did not know that the public was so lacking in basic values and character when authority was being abused.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.


56 thoughts on “A Cruel And Stupid Flight Attendant, A Dead Puppy, And A Plane Full Of Sheep

  1. Not sheep, merely ignorant of aircraft, and under the impression that cabin staff – who have the power to àrrest them remember – know what they’re doing.

    They usually do.

    Yes, I would have retrieved the puppy. And left myself vulnerable to a 25 year prison stretch and $500,000 fine for not complying with a flight attendants directive, and violating flight safety standards. It’s the latter that I am concerned about, but I think I could have safely secured the pooch. Without killing him.

    • Since I am one of the ignorant ones, I would have assumed the attendant knew what she was doing. Lesson learned, never make assumptions. The death of a beloved family pet is a very high price to pay for a lesson United Airlines should have taught the attendant. Maybe United assumed the addendants would know or maybe that attendant wasn’t paying attention during that lesson. I hope we will be hearing from United very soon with an

      • I’m with you. Jack’s assumption seems to be that everyone knew it was an unsafe place for the dog and deferred. To me, if the flight attendant says “this is where your dog needs to travel,” that means “this is an ok place for dogs to travel.” When an employee gives you an instruction it is generally a fair assumption that it is a proper and safe instruction, barring evidence to the contrary.

        If I remember correctly, Jack has condemned people calling their pets “service animals” to circumvent airline directions, and here he condemns someone following airline directions. And anyone who thinks blatantly ignoring instructions on the plane DOESN’T end up with uniformed security and forcible removal is fooling themselves. So what’s an ethical traveler to do?

        • I’m stunned that literally everyone wouldn’t know that storage bins are not for living things, that dogs do not do well in confined spaces, that there is no way to breath up there, and that the treatment is per se animal cruelty.

          I condemn anyone who follows directions that are stupid and cruel. I don’t care who gives them. Infrequent flyers have some excuse, if they turn off their brains. those who have never owned a dog, perhaps, or who don’t care if they live or die. For the rest of us—this is life competence again. We are expected to know basic things.

          • I consider myself pretty competent and nothing I’ve seen of those compartments would have made me guess they’re airtight- unpleasant, maybe, but not dangerous. I think you’re making an unfair assumption that because you (correctly) assumed they ARE unsafe, that such an assumption is somehow common knowledge or basic life competence.

            • Overhead compartments are for luggage, and they close completely, as anyone can hear and see. Why would they have any circulating air? It’s like closing the animal inside a suitcase.

            • How about when someone proposes something that you have never heard of, seen, read about, or imagined, seen portrayed in a movie or TV show, or mentioned as something someone else saw or experienced? I’ve been on planes with dozens of dogs, in carriers and out. Among other things, if animals were going to be put in the bin, the airline would be obligated to warn the traveler.

            • We consider refrigerators airtight and require doors to be removed at time of disposal. A pillow can smother a human being. Small confined spaces without adequate vents should be considered an inherent asphyxiation risk. Even cardboard pet carriers have vents. I don’t need to be an aircraft engineer to know that without adequate oxygen life dies from lack of O2 or buildup of CO2.

          • Basic things like the relative air pressure of the overhead compartments in an aircraft? Yeah, grade three home ec, that.

            Look, I’ll grant you that putting an animal in a confined space is cruel… But it could probably be strongly argued that any air travel with an animal borders on cruelty. Anyone who owns an animal knows that sometimes you have to do things they don’t like… Like putting them in a kennel overnight, or taking them to the vet, or cutting their balls off. If the flight attendant says that the animal has to go in the overhead compartment, even if you think that’s cruel, if you don’t realize it’s airtight and going to kill the animal, then it might be the thing a rational person does.

          • Dogs with pug faces also have restricted nasal passages which limits their ability to breathe under normal circumstances.

      • The tendency to assume that someone in a position of “authority”, even that of a flight attendant, knows what they’re talking about, is a very human trait. It takes an effort of will, and usually long, painful experience, to be ever cognizant of the Bell curve of human intelligence. It’s probably safe to assume that most of the commentators on this blog are of above-average intelligence, and such people have a tendency to assume that the people they interact with are operating on their level.
        Much more often than not, they’re not. Likewise, a trait of people less intellectually gifted is to underestimate the abilities of intelligent people, precisely because they lack the cognitive capacity to accurately gauge intelligence.
        So, to loosely paraphrase General Mattis: “Be polite, be professional, but always be on the lookout for idiots”.

    • The chances of anyone intervening being punished or complaints charged by the airline are exactly zero. Make enough fuss that the pilot comes out.I would guess 74% or more of any plane knows you can’t put living things in the overhead…

      But then, in Australia you let them take your guns, so maybe you’ll let an authority kill your pupppies too…

      The Nuremberg Trials supposedly established the principle that “I was just following orders” is not a universal defense.

      • I mean…. I fly every other month or so, and while I would never have thought to put something alive up there, I would have thought it needlessly cruel… I don’t think I would have connected overhead storage with an airtight death chamber. I would guess the number of people who thought the dog would die is very low.

          • I mean… As someone who had animals growing up, it would be heartbreaking, but if you’ve ever kept a puppy in an enclosure overnight, you know that’s what they do. I wouldn’t have connected that with actual life-threatening distress, no.

              • I mean… If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the story is getting big enough that maybe it will become common knowledge that those compartments are airtight. I can think of reasons other than animal safety that it would pay to know that.

      • The chances of anyone intervening being punished or complaints charged by the airline are exactly zero.

        Yeah, an airline would never drag an innocent person off a plane for refusing to ignore unethical directives…

        • “punished or complaints”

          Funny, but stupid. The man dragged off the plane was NOT punished, and in fact collected an apology and damages. See, I did NOT say that an intervenor would not face momentary opposition, or inconvenience. I wrote that he would not face punishment or a complaint from the airline, because the public doesn’t like seeing people who stand up for little dogs being punished.

          If you need definitions of the words I choose, quite carefully, being a lawyer and all, feel free to ask for a dictionary reference for any post.

          • “If you need definitions of the words I choose, quite carefully, being a lawyer and all, feel free to ask for a dictionary reference for any post.”
            That there is some classic Jack!

  2. Airline for sale, airline for sale…50¢ an airline.

    One can only assume unassailable authority, even in the smallest amounts, is an addictive drug which some cannot resist.

    • It’s not unassailable. Again, if the attendant said, “Suffocate your child, please,” presumably a parent would not say, “Right away!” Well, on this Plane of Fools, maybe.

  3. I wonder if some passengers were deterred from intervening by recalling what happened to a man who merely wanted to keep the seat he payed for on a United Flight. Should the other passengers have intervened in that situation to keep an elderly man from being beaten? Dr. Dao suffered far more than zero punishment for not obeying the flight crew.

    • In that case, though, I am sure the passengers weren’t sure what was going on and who was in the right. Also, uniformed personnel entered the plane. In this case, there was NO question that what was being done was wrong, that the victim (the puppy) was innocent and vulnerable, and finally, I would WANT them to call in security, since there would be a substantial chance that one, you know, knew the difference between a dog and a stuffed animal.

      • I didn’t want to suggest that the situations were exactly the same, just that knowledge of what has happened in the past is likely to have a chilling effect on many people’s willingness to intervene. I can understand at least some of the passengers not wanting to get involved but with a full plane there should have been at least one with balls enough. I think the best option for the owner in that situation would have been to take her puppy, get off the plane, and then raise holy hell.

  4. Shades of Stanley Milgram. An authority figure in any kind of uniform exerts a strong influence. It was wrong to comply, of course. My question: Why didn’t they check on the puppy often?

  5. Jack wrote, “I am shocked and disgusted that no one, including the owner, made a firm stand against this obvious animal cruelty. Passengers were tweeting about how horrible it was that the puppy was being stuffed in the overhead bin. Barking could be heard during the flight. Yet not one person on board had the courage, integrity and character to stand up and forbid this abuse.”

    This incident shows just how compliant, yes sheepish, many people have become to flight crew authority when flying on airlines. When it comes to airline rules, their goal is 100% compliant customers and anyone that challenges them get’s beaten and dragged off the flight and fined, yes those kind of incidents make a huge and lasting impression on future victims, sheep, customers what ever they are calling captive passengers now. I do think this is signature significance, in that it is “a single act… so remarkable that it has predictive and analytical value, and should not be dismissed as statistically insignificant.” What have people become?

    Personally, I would have calmly refused the flight attendant and gone over her head and demanded to speak directly with the pilot.

    I only fly when driving to my destination is physically impossible.

    P.S. Jack, you should consider including a direct link to Concepts and Special Terms in your “Rule Book” menu. The link in the banner menu works fine but since the banner menu isn’t fixed with everything scrolling beneath it, it gets lost when scrolled down, and when you scroll back up, the “Rule Book” menu is the top most menu the user sees, it’s the main go-to menu. Also consider adding “About Us” too.

  6. I have to fly out to California next week. I now have an irrational fear that they will try to stuff me in the bin.

    I wouldn’t let my Pepe within a mile of an aircraft, or flight attendants. If something should happen to him under their care, I would probably be spending many years in the prison.

  7. We allow infants under 2 to fly on the laps of a parent. Why was that not an option? If the overhead bin was considered safe for an animal of approximate size as an infant would they also think that putting an infant in the overhead bin was OK? Ask the flight attendant that question.

    We need to rethink our ideas on animals/pets as merely personal property similar to that of an umbrella or suitcase. They are not. For most people the loss of a family pet closely approximates that of a family loved one.

    What I don’t know is why the small pet carrier could not fit under the seat. Did the owner choose to keep other belongings under the seat that did not require air? If so they bear a portion of the responsibility.

  8. Yes, the flight attendants are responsible, stupid, and cruel. Yes, the passengers defaulted to apparent authority of the flight attendants, Yes, the situation was wholly foreseeable and preventable. I place responsibility squarely at the feet of the airline for its lack of training, hiring practices, and strict adherence to rules to enforce conformity.

    But, where in this story is the responsibility of the useless pet owner? This was a three hour flight. Did she ever check on the puppy? Probably not. Did she make sure that the poor thing was safe during a three hour flight? Probably not. Did ever once open the bin door to see what, if anything, was wrong when the poor animal stopped making noise? Obviously not. She took a live animal and stuffed it in a storage bin at the instructions of some idiot flight attendant. Why, for all that is holy, didn’t she pay for the dog to be placed in the pet-appropriate space in the luggage compartment? Why did she insist on bringing a 10 month old puppy on a flight, inside the plane, where it could (most probably) bother everyone else in the vicinity?


    • I’ve got more to add later regarding byzantine rules, strict rules, letting rules slide, and people rudely presuming on other people’s comfort for their own convenience.

      This dead puppy is a fiasco that has been years in the making.

      • I’ll say this: this incident has guaranteed a huge increase in purple lying about pets as service animals. Claim victimhood and get social treatment. Obey the rules and get lied to by airline personnel in such a way that following their rules kills your pet. Perverse incentives anyone?

      • 1) Airlines have clearly delineated standards for carry-on sizes. Enforcement of these sizes has been perennially neglected to where passengers routinely carry noticeably larger than permitted carry-on bags. This is marginal rule breaking.

        2) No doubt this puppy was in such a carry-on that would never have been permitted if rules were enforced…NOR EVER EVEN ATTEMPTED if the owners knew that rules were enforced. But the larger culture has acquiesced to the flouting of a “no big deal” rule.

        3) People assume no one else cares that there’s an animal on board with all the other passengers. This is an unmannerly assumption to make about everyone else in a cramped airplane. It’s barely tolerable for parents of young children to take flights who know their children are going to bawl and scream all flight long. But, hey, humans outrank animals, so we tolerate THAT imposition. Frankly, to presume an entire plane is cool with animals in the main cabin is rudely presumptuous.

        4) Airlines should never have permitted “comfort animals”…but now that that barn door is open, it’s clear that they need to be much more strict about what animals are permitted. They must have strict size limits, like maybe half the weight of an average 2 year old. They must have species limits.

        5) This will cause controversy, but: Humans should never have become so neurotic that they need “comfort animals”. Yes, our pets are solid members of our families, but no, we shouldn’t hang all our hopes, fears, neuroses, character flaws, disorders and fetishes on them. The level we’ve raised our pets to in our psychological lives is a disease that afflicts our culture. My gut says it’s symptomatic of our general retreat from our fellow man combined with years of disappointment in our fellow man and selves.

        6) We’ve become unquestioning sheep in the face of any authority.


        This fiasco would never have materialized if a whole lot of the system wasn’t already broken before all the actors in this episode coalesced into the perfect storm.

        • Michael West wrote, “We’ve become unquestioning sheep in the face of any authority.”

          Maybe reasonably true in the case of flight crews; HOWEVER, it is very easy to show that we have not “become unquestioning sheep in the face of any authority”. Thanks to boneheads in Black Lives Matters and their supporters there is a wide swath of the population that simply refuse to do what police tell them to do, the perceived authority that police have over the public has been noticeably dwindling over the last 9 years or so.

        • Michael West wrote, “This will cause controversy, but: Humans should never have become so neurotic that they need “comfort animals”. Yes, our pets are solid members of our families, but no, we shouldn’t hang all our hopes, fears, neuroses, character flaws, disorders and fetishes on them. The level we’ve raised our pets to in our psychological lives is a disease that afflicts our culture. My gut says it’s symptomatic of our general retreat from our fellow man combined with years of disappointment in our fellow man and selves.”

          In general I’d say that I agree; however, there is something about the absolute unconditional love that a dog shares with humans that truly seems to help certain individuals. For example, there are Soldiers and Marines with severe cases of PTSD have come out of their psychological shells with the use of specially trained dogs, I have an old Army buddy with one of these specially trained dogs, it’s done him wonders. I have absolutely no problem with this.

          That said; I see absolutely no reason to take these comfort animals on a plane and subject others to an animal in a confined environment. People “requiring” these animals can find another means of travel or put the animal in the hold away from the rest of the passengers. A plane is a very confined environment and there are people that are extremely allergic or extremely afraid of some animals.

          Some years ago I was on a flight where a lady had her cat in a pet carrier, the cat freaked out when the plane took off and it shit all over itself and the inside of the bag and the odor was so bad that everyone’s eyes were watering, there were people close to the animal that were gagging. It really was quite terrible. Luckily it was a short 40 minute connecting flight.

          Keep animals out of passenger compartments, period!

          • Yes, soldiers suffering PTSD is a useful exception to the rule. But I think it proves the rule. Soldiers were placed in situations that broke their psyches and their morale in pursuit of national goals. I hope my comment clearly indicates a general concern with how regular people living regular lives have allowed themselves to become so neurotic that they need “comfort animals”.

          • Agreed. One thing that people need to take into consideration is that an airplane, no matter how large it is, is still an airplane, and subject to the same laws of physics that all airplanes are. Its a full-time job just to keep one in proper trim, so that a pilot isn’t constantly fighting to keep it flying straight and level, among other things. That’s hard enough to do even when people aren’t moving around. I can’t imagine what its like when its full of people moving around. Imagine what would happen if a frightened animal suddenly got pissed, and a bunch of overly-jumpy people panicked and rushed away towards the other end of the fuselage! Yes, there’s some computer automation, but these things aren’t flawless, and they do malfunction. Its one of the reasons why you have to sit still while the pilot climbs and descends to and from cruising flight level.

  9. I’ve got more to say on this later. But my quick comment now is a question:

    Are we certain the puppy asphyxiated? I’ve seen plenty of animals, especially young ones, “scared to death”….literally. Granted, my experience comes from notably more fragile mammals like rabbits and rats, but are we certain that isn’t the case with this puppy?

    Not that it makes the dog any less dead, but I think it changes how we evaluate just how unethical all the actors in this fiasco are…make no mistake they are all still unethical.

    • Michael,
      Reasonable question but I would doubt confinement in a darkened space would engender fear. Actually quite the opposite. Animals are routinely blindfolded to calm them. Animals sense danger visually.

      There could be other factors other than asphyxiation that contributed to the animals death such as an underlying medical condition. Dogs with short muzzles cannot breathe as easy as those with long muzzles that have larger nasal passages. Couple that with aircraft that are not pressurized to a full 14.7 psi and the animal could easily succumb to respiratory distress even if it stayed out of the overhead.

      I would never travel with an animal by air.

    • Remember, the fact that the dog in fact died is just moral luck. If he had come bounding out of the overhead bin refreshed and happy, it still wouldn’t change a word of my post. The breach occurred when putting him in there, and when nobody stopped it. It doesn’t matter how or why the dog died. Putting him there was cruel, dangerous, stupid, and an abuse of authority.

      • I agree 100%. I should have stated that the outcome was moral luck. Instead I just focused on the issue of fear and the physiology issue presented by Mr. West.

        I also think he summed up your point in his last sentence beginning with “make no mistake . . .”

  10. Unless someone is moving to a new location or something similar, there’s no need to bring a pet on a plane. Whether it’s for “support” or not, the ethics breach begins by airlines letting animals on a plane and people thinking it makes any sense to bring them on one. Taking an animal on an airplane should be extremely rare and not something to be done because someone feels like it.

    As someone who has built a business around caring for and training dogs, I can’t being to express how dumb some pet owners are about a dogs needs. They lack the understanding that dogs are their own entities and have their own language that isn’t like ours at all. Many dog owners get one so the dog will fulfill the owners emotional void which is a terrible starting point for any relationship, including a pet/human bond. Taking a dog on a plane is animal cruelty in my opinion because it is generally woefully unnecessary and serves only the selfish desires of the dog owner without being clear on the potential consequences physically and emotionally to the pet. Sure some dogs are fine with it, but many are not built for such a shock to the system. A few of my clients have learned this lesson and their dogs had to bear the brunt of the owners previously bad decision.

    I hope the lesson for airlines is to make bringing pets on planes more difficult (i.e. expensive or require proof of necessity). And for dog owners, that a qualified pet sitter is generally a kinder and more humane choice than an airplane ride.

  11. I see a lot of the people defending ignorance of the bin being air tight here, like that makes anyone on the flight less culpable. Let me ask you, what’re the instructions given when you go to disembark?

    Every time I’ve flown, it was some variation of “please be careful opening overhead compartments, as objects may have shifted in flight.”

    Not knowing the bin is airtight still does not excuse anyone who let the animal be put up there. It just means they’re all morons, who couldn’t see the likely consequences of the dog being hit by a compartment full of their own, overweight, carry-ons.

    I’m waxing a little incandescent with rage right now, so I’ll just leave it at that until I get home tonight.

  12. My perspective, as a million miler on three different airlines.. and yes, Untied is one of them even though i stopped flying them in 2003…

    (and I am avoiding the whole “service animal” with vest from EBay morass here)

    In economy class, the underseat storage area for the aisle seats is significantly smaller than that under the middle seat (largest) and the window seat. Due, i believe, to the restraining bar that drops down from the frame to the floor that keeps bags from being a trip hazard during a potential evacuation (or just to keep people from tripping on it when they go to the can)

    It seems, from the story, that the kennel was in the aisle seat and didnt fit. I wonder if the owner thought of turning to their next seat neighbor and asking to swap seats… or asking the FA if there was another middle seat passenger who would swap with her so that the kennel would have more room…??? Does ANYONE know of ANYBODY in a center seat who wouldnt jump at the chance to swap for an aisle? Bueller? Bueller?

    Or should I just stop trying to make sense and make sure that the credentials for my emotional support Wildebeest are up to date?

  13. This is a reply to several people at once who wondered about the pet owner, and also to Mrs. Q (who is right on, as usual.)

    It’s also not a defense of the pet owner, but more an attempt to pin point where the ethical breech was on her part.

    A number of people here have wondered what she was thinking. From reading the article, Jack’s description, and a few other recountings across the net I can tell you exactly what she was thinking.

    She was traveling with an infant, another daughter (I haven’t seen the kid’s age) and a dog.

    With an infant, there’s probably a 70% chance she didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Then she got both kids ready to go, and trekked through an airport, clearing security, keeping track of all of their stuff, feeding the baby, keeping the puppy quiet, making sure the other kid got her shoes off and back on, getting to the gate, getting everyone boarded…

    Then a flight attendant tells her there’s a problem with the dog’s carrier. Now, from what I read elsewhere, it was a TSA approved carrier, so I’m not sure what the problem was. Maybe she also had the diaper bag crammed under the seat, maybe it was an older model bag or plane, maybe she didn’t have it closed right. But whatever the case, the flight attendant tells her to put it in the overhead.

    She points out there’s a dog in it, and the flight attendant insists.

    I can tell you that pet owner was not thinking clearly, and had no mental space to be thinking about her pet while dealing with the two kids. I’ll be honest, she might even have been relieved to have the dog someplace “safe” and tucked away for the flight, assuming (as other people have suggested, and I agree) she didn’t know much about the overhead compartments and expected the flight attendant to know what she was talking about.

    I understand 100% what was going through this woman’s mind, she was juggling a hundred things at once, and that’s where she was unethical.

    I’ve mentioned here before, I have a special needs toddler, and I think that makes me way more sensitive than most parents (and other people) I talk to to weight of responsibilities both to and for small children and pets when they go someplace. I can’t assume that public places or people’s homes will be equipped to be safe and comfortable for my daughter, and I can’t assume that her behavior won’t be disruptive to other people. I have to go into every situation knowing I might have to tell people “this isn’t going to work. What else can you do?” and with a plan for how to evacuate or mitigate the damage if my daughter is incapable of dealing with it. I rarely go places without a second adult (my husband or mother, usually) and the idea of trying to take her on an airplane, even with back-up, seems insane to me.

    The thing is, every parent (and pet owner) should be ready for those situations. They should be considering that their charges will have emergencies, that their plans will get messed up, that the people they’re working with will not have in mind what’s best for their charge, and they’ll have to fight for it. And they should plan accordingly with enough trusted adults with them to handle whatever situation arises and back-up plans for their back-up plans.

    But most of the time, they don’t have to. Most of the time it never comes up, and if there are a few bumps — the kid wants a snack they can’t have, or the puppy won’t stop barking — they can just move past them. So they don’t. They overestimate their ability to advocate for the beings in their charge, and their ability to keep control of situations, and if something big does come up… they make mistakes. Sometimes annoying mistakes, sometimes tragic mistakes.

    Now, maybe this situation was totally unavoidable for the woman in question. Maybe she was escaping an abusive husband, or trying to get to a dying relative, and had no money to board or check the dog, and knew she was taking a risk but absolutely had to do it anyway. In that case, she has my sympathy.

    But more likely, she didn’t even think about the risk she was taking by taking on that responsibility for three lives as she traveled. She thought she could get away without paying to ship the dog in the hold (not a perfect solution, but better in the case of someone also juggling two kids) or boarding the dog.

    That’s absolutely unethical, and in my experience all too common.

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