Maggie Rizer claims that United Airlines killed her beloved Golden Retriever, Bea and then denied any wrongdoing.
The 34-year-old supermodel and her husband Alex Mehran, were traveling with their 10-month-old son Zander and two golden retrievers - Albert, 7, and Beatrice, 2. When the family landed in San Francisco from New York, Rizer was notified that Bea had died during the trip, just days after she received a medical exam and was found to be in perfect help.
"Two weeks ago, on our way back to San Francisco after a great summer vacation on the east coast, Beatrice lost her life due to the negligence of United Airlines," Rizer wrote in a blog post on September 20. "I'm writing this with my anger aside, in the hopes that someone looking for advice will read this and not make the mistake of trusting United with their pets as we did."
Rizer detailed her preparation for the flight, which included research, physical exams and buying new kennels to satisfy the requirements of United's Pet Safe program. She also drove six hours from upstate New York to avoid putting the dogs on a connecting flight and paid United Airlines $1,800, in addition to the family's tickets, just to ensure the safety of the Golden Retrievers.
Upon their arrival, Rizer said she and her husband were told, "one of them is dead" by "an emotionless worker who seemed more interested in his text messages."
A United Airlines supervisor then claimed that Bea had been "delivered to a local vet for an autopsy." Rizer insisted they retrieve the dog to bring to her own veterinarian and it reportedly took two hours before it was revealed that Bea was behind a closed door.
Rizer's veterinarian determined that Bea died from heatstroke. United Airlines told the couple later, "our internal investigation does not show any irregularities, as evidenced by the fact that your companion dog and other animals on board did not suffer the same fate."
The model went on to explain that she didn't intend to file a lawsuit or to urge people to avoid flying United. She wrote, "I am writing this to help make people aware that airlines are incapable of ensuring the safety of our pets."
United Airlines told OTRC.com in a statement, "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."
Certain dog breeds (not Golden Retrievers) are at a greater risk of death during air travel, due to respiratory issues. In 2011, 35 animals died while traveling and 19 of those animals were on Delta Airline flights, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.