A passenger on a Delta flight that had a layover in Atlanta earlier this month says her dog was lost by the airline’s staff after she was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The passenger, Paula Rodriguez, posted in a Facebook group called “Atlanta Area Lost and Found Pets” with a plea for help after she said she lost her dog on Aug. 18.
“For 2 straight days I have not received any information whatsoever on her whereabouts, and just today I received info from Delta that she escaped her kennel on the airport ramp and that airport staff was looking for her,” Rodriguez wrote on Aug. 21, sharing a photo of her dog, Maia.
Rodriguez asked Atlanta-area shelters to keep an eye out for her dog, and asked members of the Facebook group for suggestions. “I am truly desperate and every minute counts,” she said.
The post got more than 1,000 shares and the story gained national attention when Rodriguez said on CNN this weekend that her dog was still missing.
Rodriguez, who said she was flying to San Francisco from the Dominican Republic with a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, claims her tourist visa wasn’t approved by border officials and she had to spend the night at a detention center as she awaited the next flight back home.
Her dog, she says, was not allowed to stay with her at the center, and a Delta agent took the pet. She claims staff told her the dog would be waiting at the gate for her the next day, but that wasn’t the case. “I asked everyone –I told them I needed time to locate her, that she was sick and I wanted to clean her kennel, and they said, ‘Let’s go to the gate, she should be there,'” Rodriguez told CNN.
She said the gate staff tried to locate Maia, and she even got rebooked on the next flight so she could wait until they found the dog –but that never happened.
Rodriguez says she has “filed every claim possible” and received a call from a Delta representative two days after Maia went missing. “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.
In an email to CBS News, a Delta representative confirmed the dog escaped her carrier “while teams were transporting the pet in the operations area outside of terminal buildings,” but she would have otherwise been returned to Rodriguez before her Customs and Border Protection-mandated flight.
The representative confirmed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol does not allow cabin pets –those who traveled on the plane in a carrier under the seat– at their detention facility.
“Delta people are heartbroken over what this customer and her family are going through. Delta remains in contact with her as we continue to keep all eyes and ears open for her dog,” the representative said in a statement.
Delta has been searching around-the-clock for the dog, even using night-vision goggles, the representative said. Notices about the dog have been placed in the airport and at local animal shelters, and communities have been asked to look out for the dog.
Rodriguez told CNN her mother flew to Atlanta to represent her as the search for her dog continues. The Delta spokesperson said the airline has been in constant communication with Rodriguez and has given her mother “complimentary hosting,” including access to the airfield so she can assist with search efforts.
The specifics of how and why the dog went missing are still being investigated, Delta said.