United announces changes after pair of high-profile dog mishaps

NEW YORK (WABC) -- United Airlines has announced it is implementing a new prevention system following several highly-publicized pet travel mishaps.

The company is dealing with a public relations nightmare after a French bulldog died when his bag was placed in an overhead bin and a German shepherd that was supposed to fly to Kansas instead ended up in Japan.

Less than a day after issuing an apology and promising an investigation into the death of Kokito, there was a second incident involving Kara Swindle and her family.

The family and their dog Irgo were headed from Oregon to Kansas City. But somehow, Irgo -- who was riding in cargo -- ended up on a 12-hour flight to Japan.

"I know he's going through hell right now, because he's obviously not used to this," Swindle said.

When she went to pick up Irgo, she instead found a Great Dane.

"I was in instant tears," she said.

The airline says the mix-up happened during a connection in Denver, where the dogs were walked and then accidentally placed in the wrong carriers.

United tells ABC News they "apologize for this mistake" and are investigating.

The second apology comes after Kokito died on a flight from Houston to New York City on Monday.

Eleven-year-old Sophia Ceballos, mom Catalina Robledo and their Frenchie boarded the flight at Bush Intercontinental Airport. They claim they were forced to put his bag in the overhead compartment, and when the plane landed at LaGuardia Airport, Sophia says she and her mother made the heartbreaking discovery.

"She's like, 'He died, he died. Kokito, Kokito.' And he didn't wake up," Ceballos said. "She hit his chest so he could breathe, but he couldn't breathe."

In that case, United told ABC News their flight attendant "did not hear or understand there was a dog in the bag" and did not "knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin."

The family claims they told the flight attendant several times that their puppy was in the bag.

"She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag,'" Ceballos said. "But we told her it was a dog. She's lying."

Ceballos said the flight attendant made them store the bag above because it partially blocked the aisle.

"We were going to put him under the seat, and then the flight attendants came," Ceballos said. "She said, 'You have to put him up there because it's going to block that path.' And we're like, 'It's a dog. It's a dog.' She's like, 'It doesn't matter, you still put it up there.' And she just put, she helped her put it up, and she just closed it like it was a baggage."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 24 deaths reported of animals transported by air in 2017. Three-quarters of those deaths occurred on United Airlines.

Irgo is flying back first class, and next month, United plans to start using bright-colored bag tags for customers traveling with pets inside the cabin. That way, attendants know right away there is an animal inside that bag.

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