Pet dies while being transported by airline

Pet dies while being transported by airline

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A local couple spent years searching for the perfect pet, only to have their dreams dashed.

"Rigby the flying squirrel" died while in the care of American Airlines. He was being transported through the cargo department, but his owners say he never made it home. Now an investigation underway into the pet's death.

For three years, Amanda Carson searched for the perfect pet, settling on a small flying squirrel from a Texas breeder. Finally, in October, Carson was notified she made it onto the deposit list. Months later, in mid-December, the breeder sent the squirrel through the American Airlines cargo department.

However, his owners said he never made it home. "I was expecting to pick him up at five o'clock at the airport, but he wasn't there," said Amanda Carson, recalling the confusion surrounding the location of her new pet.

Online tracking information shows the breeder dropped off the flying squirrel on Dec. 21 at the airport in Austin, Texas. Carson was told the animal never made the connecting flight to Richmond.

Instead, the couple was told the pet would be on a later flight. They waited for hours at the airport, but the animal never arrived. "I got mad and said, 'He's a baby and needs special formula, and he's been there since five in the morning. This was at midnight,'" recalled Matt Dallman as he explained his conversation with a live animal specialist at RIC.

The next morning, Dallman was able to talk to a representative with the airline. "He said, 'Yeah, he's in the office keeping people company. He'll be on the next flight, there's no reason he shouldn't be,'" said Dallman.

Online tracking showed the flying squirrel was checked in at RIC, arriving at the airport on December 22, at 10:51 in the morning.

Before the couple could pick him up, an unexpected call came in. "It was a phone call from Texas saying her pet was deceased," said Dallman.

Suddenly, the couple was told by the airline that the animal was still in Texas and had died.

In a statement, American Airlines said:

"American Airlines cares for thousands of animals we transport every year and we take every precaution to ensure their travels are safe and secure. Unfortunately, a squirrel being transported from Austin, Texas to Richmond, Virginia died. We are conducting a full investigation, including an independent necropsy to determine the cause of death and a review of why the care and feeding instructions were not completed by the breeder. We are in contact with the buyer and keeping them informed of any developments. Attempts to reach the breeder have been unsuccessful."

"It was only supposed to be a five hour trip, he wasn't supposed to be in there for thirty hours," said Carson.

Emails between the airline and the couple stated immediate action has taken place to prevent any future recurrence. Correspondence also said that the couple will be contacted soon with a full explanation and to assist with a reimbursement.

The couple pointed out that those emails were written on and around Dec. 22, and they are still left with questions leading into the new year.

Carson has been in contact with the breeder, who is sending her a second flying squirrel.

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