United Mistakenly Ships Dog Bound for Kansas to Japan

A family dog bound for Kansas ended up in Japan after United Airlines mistakenly shipped him to the wrong destination.

Irgo, a 10-year-old German Shepherd, found himself on a flight bound for Japan while his family landed in Wichita, Kansas on Tuesday, March 12, CNN reports.

According to Kara Swindle, whose family is moving from Oregon to Kansas, when she went to pick Irgo up at a United Airlines cargo facility after her plane landed safely in Kansas, she discovered that Irgo was nowhere to be found and a Great Dane that was supposed to be enroute to Japan was in his place.

Swindle and her family were left in a state of panic as they tried to figure out where their family pet had gone, and they did not find out his whereabouts until the plane landed in Japan at 2:30 a.m. on March 13. During the 16-hour flight, Irgo had no food or water and had to go without medication for an ear infection that he is suffering from.

“An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations. We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible. We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened,” United Airlines said in a statement.

Once located, Irgo was examined by a vet in Japan and is set to be flown by private charter from Narita, Japan to Wichita, Kansas on Thursday.

“I'm hoping that from now on they take better care of animals. They kind of treat them like they are luggage. I'm hoping they can put something into policy so that this will never happen again. Maybe putting a picture of the animal on the outside of the pen (instead of just paperwork, which is affixed on the outside of each crate). I don't want anyone to ever have to go through this again,” Swindle said.

The mixup comes just days after a French bulldog named Kokito died while traveling on a United Airlines flight.

Cataline Robledo and her 11-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son brought their family dog onto a flight from Houston to New York in a pet carrier. Robledo initially stored the carrier under the seat in front of her but was later told by a flight attendant to move it, with Kokito inside, to the overhead bin. Robledo resisted the direction but ultimately followed the flight attendant's instruction. When the flight landed, the family discovered that Kokito had died.

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In response to the pet’s death, United Airlines spokesperson Maggie Schmerin said that the airline plans to change its pet travel policy.

“To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin,” Schmerin said in a statement.