An 8-year-old Pomeranian was found dead in its carrier Wednesday during a layover between two Delta flights.
The pup, named Alejandro, was traveling from Phoenix to Newark, New Jersey. The route included a layover at Detroit Metro Airport. A lawyer representing the dog’s owner, Michael Dellegrazie, told CNN that Alejandro was checked on and alive when the layover started around 6:00 a.m. He was reportedly being held in his carrier in a cargo facility.
“Then between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. he was checked on again and he was dead,” attorney Evan Oshan said.
CNN reported a Delta spokesperson said the dog was found with vomit and fluids in the carrier.
Dellegrazie told the network he wants to know what happened to his family’s dog, and he said he believed there was some kind of foul play involved.
In a statement to HuffPost, Delta said it was thoroughly investigating the incident.
“Pets are important members of the family and we are focused on the well-being of all animals we transport,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “Delta is conducting a thorough review of the situation to ensure this does not happen again and have been working directly with Alejandro’s family to support them however we can.”
The airline offered to have a necropsy performed on Alejandro, though the dog is now in the family’s possession.
“We are disappointed that we were not allowed to have a necropsy performed immediately following this unfortunate situation,” the spokesperson added.
Earlier this year, airlines’ ability to safely transport pets came under renewed interest when a dog died on a United Airlines flight after an owner was forced to put the pup in the overhead bin. Pets traveling in the airplane cabin are intended to be stowed under the seat in front of the owner.
According to data from the Department of Transportation, United leads domestic carriers in the number of deaths and injuries of pets traveling in the cargo area in 2017.
In the same year, a total of 57,479 pets traveled on Delta Airlines. Two pets died and another was injured. One of the deceased pets included a kitten that died during a layover in Minneapolis during a trip from Indianapolis to Bozeman, Montana. The kitten was being held in an animal holding area and was alive when the layover began but found dead when it was time to transport the feline to its next flight. A necropsy provided by the University of Minnesota found the kitten died of a pre-existing medical condition.
Though the airline has improved its track record on safely transporting pets, Delta held the top spot in pet deaths from 2010-2012.