NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The family of a puppy that died on a United Airlines flight joined animal rights advocates and lawmakers for a demonstration at LaGuardia Airport on Sunday afternoon.
People’s pets were also part of the protest, which demanded major improvements to protect pets traveling on airplanes, WLNY TV 10/55’s Dave Carlin reported.
They huddled in a Terminal A parking lot to protest the in-flight deaths of animals, chanting “We want justice for Kokito!”
New York Sen. Marisol Alcantara unveiled a pet passenger bill of rights she said she will introduce in the state senate. She has named it “Kokito’s Law.”
“It’s like losing a family member,” Alcantara said.
Kokito is the 10-month-old French bulldog ordered by a flight attendant to be placed in overhead storage for the entirety of a recent United flight from Houston to New York.
The dog died.
Grieving family members include 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos.
“He’s really special and I just think about him every day at school and I can’t concentrate,” Ceballos said.
“My heart is broken for this young girl,” Alcantara said.
The senator’s legislation bans putting pets in overhead bins, requires the pets have access to food and water and mandates animal welfare training for employees.
Animal rights advocates said they support the pet protection push in New York state and hope for the same laws to go nationwide.
“Animals are not things. They are not objects. They’re living, breathing, sentient things that are capable of suffering, capable of pain and capable of dying and they cannot be treated as inanimate objects,” advocate Constance Marino said.
United never released the name of the flight attendant. In Kokito’s case, the family wants an apology from that employee.
“She has not come forward,” family attorney Evan Oshan said. “We want accountability and justice.”
The flight attendant said she didn’t know there was a dog in the carrier. United issued an apology, saying pets should never be placed in an overhead bin. But then in the same week as Kokito’s death the airline had two more mishaps involving dogs. On Tuesday a canine was accidentally sent to Japan instead of Kansas City. Then on Thursday a dog was put on a plane by mistake and the flight had to be diverted.
In those other cases, the dogs survived.
The attorney for Kokito’s owners would not say if the family plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against United.