United nearly kills shipped dog, refuses to pay vet bills without NDA

Janet Sinclair and her dog "Sedona"

When Janet Sinclair shipped her greyhound from San Diego to Boston with United Airlines' PetSafe program, she was horrified to discover her dog nearly dead on arrival, covered in feces and blood, with blood in its stool and urine. The dog had been exposed to punishing heat, its cage had been kicked across United's shipping facilities by their handlers. The vet bill was $2700, and the vet confirmed that the dog's injuries were the result of heat stroke and rough treatment.

United agreed to pay the vet bill, but only if Sinclair would sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to tell anyone about their monumental screw-up. Instead, Sinclair went public. The ensuing media attention revealed hundreds of other people whose pets were injured and killed by United.

"And the woman in front of me said – 'Is that your dog?'" Sinclair said. "And she said, ‘Honey, I sure hope you’re taking video of this.’ And that was the beginning of the worst day of my life."

She shot cell phone video that July day and shared it with NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. The video she recorded periodically shows her pets left outside, not in a temperature-controlled vehicle. According to the National Weather Service, the high in Houston that day was 94 degrees. When they touched down in Boston, Sinclair said her dog was barely alive.

"Sedona’s entire crate was filled with blood, feces, urine," Sinclair said. "Sedona was in full heat stroke. All of the blankets were filled with blood. She was urinating and defecating blood. She was dying, literally, right in front of me."

United Airlines Refuses to Pay Veterinarian Bill Without NDA [Elyce Kirchner and David Paredes/NBC Bay Area]

(via Consumerist)

Notable Replies

  1. It isn't 'hush money', and I resent that defamatory implication. I'm a legitimate businessman offering you a mutually convenient transaction that happens to include an NDA, capiche?

  2. rknop says:

    When I was fired by a company, I was offered six weeks severance pay, and had to sign a thing that said I would never, for the rest of my life, say anything bad about that company. I considered not signing-- hard to do when suddenly you have no job! When you're faced with trying to pay for your life for the next six to eight months, losing six weeks of severance pay can be pretty major. People told me I was stupid because I didn't want to sign; don't give up the welfare of your family on a matter of principle.

    I threw up enough of a stink that the company modified the agreement to "no bad statements for a year, no bad untrue statements ever". I was willing to go with that, even though I STILL think that's not reasonable and not consistent with the US constitution. It's a travesty of free speech that companies can put individuals in positions where they get what for them is a lot of money, and for the company is a trivial amount of money, if the individuals sign away vast quantities of their constitutionaly protected freedom of speech.

    NDAs like this one United offered should be seen as fraud, or some other form of criminal activity, plain and simple.

  3. I've heard lots of horror stories from people I know, and had a really close call with my own pet. I don't know which airline she was flying, but my friend's sister's cat was killed during transport because the baggage handlers put its carrier in the unheated, unpressurized cargo hold (instead of the heated, pressurized cargo hold where they're supposed to put pets). When my husband brought his cat from the USA to Finland to live with us, the baggage handlers forgot to take it off the plane after the first leg of his flight (operated by some code share partner of SAS). Representatives from the airline pulled my husband off his connecting flight, which he had already boarded, and told him they didn't know where his pet was. Thankfully our cat was found alive and well, if a little grumpy, and both he and my husband made it to Finland after a considerable delay.

    Not that the baggage handlers would necessarily follow them, but don't airlines have regulations about temperature limits for transporting pets any more? When I worked for Northwest in the late 90s, they had very strict temperature limits for allowing pets to be transported as cargo because they knew that the carriers would be exposed on the tarmac during loading and unloading. If I recall, they wouldn't allow pets to be transported if the temperature at any airport in the itinerary would be above 85 degrees. We had a lot of calls from pissed-off owners who had to make last-minute changes to their itineraries because ti was too hot for their pets to safely be transported.

  4. United: we don't just break guitars.

  5. If you love your dog, don't ship it. Go on a nice cross country road trip with them.

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