For many, flying with their pets is cause for distress. With many having spoken out about the dangers of animals traveling in cargo, some opt to bring their pets on board. But for one family, even that step wasn’t enough to keep their dog safe. As the family headed from Houston to New York City on United, a flight attendant told them to place their dog, Kokito, in the overhead compartment. Catelina Robledo, who was flying with her daughter Sophia Ceballos, 11, and a toddler, objected as other passengers looked on in horror. But the United employee didn’t give her a choice. For more than three hours, Kokito was stowed away in poorly ventilated area. The dog overheated and died.
“We were gonna put him under the seat and then the flight attendants came, she said, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path.’ And we’re like, ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ And she’s like, ‘It doesn’t matter you still have to put it up there,’” Ceballos said on Good Morning America. “She helped her put it up, and she just closed it like it was a bag.”
Sophia received the puppy for her birthday. During the flight, she and her mom worried about Kokito. At one point, she heard her dog bark a few times. “We were really worried,” Sophia said, according to NBC Chicago. “He barked in the middle of the flight, and there was a lot of turbulence, so we couldn’t get him.”
Maggie Greeminger, a passenger who witnessed the incident, tried to Google if pets were safe in an overhead compartment before the flight took off. When the flight landed, she saw Robledo on the floor crying. “You could see that she was holding her dog and it was not moving,” Gremminger said. Passengers didn’t rush to get off the plane. Instead, they offered Robledo help.
For Ceballos, the death of Kokito is heartbreaking. She told GMA, “He was like my brother to me.”