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Airport staff who were bringing a passenger to her Delta Airlines flight lost her dog at the Atlanta Airport, aka the busiest airport in the world, on August 18, Friday.
According to CNN, the passenger, named Paula Rodriguez, was about to go on a two-week vacation in California with her six-year-old dog, Maia.
Maia flew in the cabin with Rodriguez. And their flight included a layover at the Atlanta Airport before arriving at their destination.
However, upon their arrival in Atlanta, border force staff informed Rodriguez that she “didn’t meet the requirements” of her tourist visa, CNN reported.
Rodriguez’s tourist visa was cancelled and staff told Rodriguez that she will have to return back to the Dominican Republic on the next flight.
And this is where the problem started – Rodriguez had to spend the night in a detention center, but without her dog.
“They called a Delta agent, who took Maia from me. I started asking questions about where she’d be spending the night, and told him she’d been in a lot of distress on the flight. When we’d got there [to Atlanta] she’d puked with distress and had diarrhea,” Rodriguez recounted.
Rodriguez said that the staff reassured her that her pooch will be well taken care of in a facility with trained staff. She continued, “It wasn’t my wish, but I understood. There was nothing I could do, and I trusted him.”
The next day, Rodriguez’s flight back home was scheduled for 10:20 AM. Border staff gave Rodriguez instructions saying they’d pick her up from the detention center one hour and 45 minutes before her flight.
Rodriguez requested that she needed more time to attend to her pooch. But staff reassured her saying, “Let’s go to the gate, she should be there.”
When Rodriguez arrived, her dog was nowhere to be found. She said, “A manager came and said they were looking for her, that she should be in the facility but they didn’t have time to look and I should get on a plane.”
“I started panicking and said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t get on when you’re telling me you don’t know where my dog is.’”
So, an hour later, Rodriguez hopped on the next flight instead, leaving for Punta Cana. The dog owner thought the incident was a simple mixup and Maia would be with her on her flight.
Unfortunately, Maia didn’t show up and Rodriguez had to leave the US without her pooch because she didn’t have a visa.
Upon landing at Punta Cana, Rodriguez said, “I called Delta, Atlanta airport, even San Francisco. I filed every claim possible. I called all the shelters and veterinary surgeries I could in Atlanta. I was in agony for two days with no answer.”
Two days after the incident, a Delta representative called Rodriguez and explained what happened.
“He said that she was being transported [to the plane] on the runway, and staff had opened her kennel, and she had got out of the car and escaped into the middle of the runway,” she told CNN.
She continued, “Planes were taking off and coming in. He said they chased her but she ran faster and faster and she escaped. That’s all I know.”
Since Rodriguez can’t fly back to the US without a visa, her mother flew to Atlanta in her place instead.
According to USA Today, the airline is hosting Rodriguez’s mother free of charge while the search for Maia continues.
Sadly, three weeks after the incident, Maia is still missing. Rodriguez said, “I’m in agony. I’ve been living a nightmare since Friday, knowing my baby is out there somewhere scared, or might be injured. All kinds of thoughts come into my head and I can’t do anything. Every minute feels like a day.”
According to USA Today, Delta opened an internal investigation on how Maia was able to escape from her carrier.
Furthermore, a Delta spokesperson told CNN, “Delta teams have been working to locate and reunite this pet with the customer and we remain in touch with the customer to provide updates.”
UPDATE: According to a TikTok video by CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, Delta Airlines offered Rodriguez $1,800 as compensation for losing her dog. Rodriguez’s lawyer then called the offer “an insult”.
However, a Delta representative who talked to Insider clarified that the money was not an “offer of compensation.”
“As this matter is being handled by attorneys representing the customer and Delta, we will point out that what our customer is sharing is one portion of an initial conversation between attorneys and not reflective of an offer of compensation,” the representative said.
The representative added, “Delta remains heartbroken for what this customer is going through but will refrain from making further comment on this matter.”