A 10-month-old French bulldog puppy named Kokito has died on a United Airlines flight after a stewardess informed its owner that the aisle must remain clear of dog crates. The dog’s owner Catalina Robledo placed Kokito in an overhead storage bin, where he died before the plane landed. Still reeling from recent spates of bad press, United Airlines has taken responsibility for the incident and apologized, but Kokito’s death is entirely the fault of his owner.
Non-service dogs do not belong in the main cabin of airplanes, which exist to transport humans through the sky. Kennels and the homes of friends exist to store household pets while their owners travel. In recent years our increasingly self-indulgent culture has permitted non-service pets to interrupt passengers’ sleep on airplanes and diners’ meals at restaurants. Worse yet, perfectly healthy people now regularly abuse the “service dog” designation, which is meant to help blind people navigate city streets, by insisting that their pets provide necessary “emotional support.”
Even if one wrongly believes that passengers ought to be allowed to bring dogs into the main cabin on flights, Kokito’s owner still should never have put the pup in so dangerous a situation. French bulldogs are brachycephalic; their short noses make breathing difficult in even the best environments. French bulldogs’ anatomical abnormalities make them particularly vulnerable to changes in air quality, to say nothing of the stress that air travel and an unfamiliar travelling case can place on a 10-month-old puppy. That’s why the U.S. Department of Transportation has warned against air travel for short-nosed dogs, observing that fully half of dog deaths associated with airline flights involve brachycephalic breeds.
Robledo’s decision to relent and store the dog-in-a-crate in the overhead bin is just one of several reckless actions she undertook, which include exposing her puppy to an airline that just last year viciously beat a medical doctor as he cried, “Just kill me,” simply for sitting in his own seat. But what other choice did the stewardess have than to instruct Robledo to move the dog case out of the aisle? Airplanes are for people, and airplane aisles exist so that people have safely board and exit the aircraft. Is Kokito’s comfort worth imperiling the lives of his owners’ fellow humans should an emergency require passengers quickly to deplane?
A less dramatic though equally urgent purpose of airplane aisles is the passage of drink carts, and passengers’ access to overpriced, mediocre scotch over cylindrical ice cubes is far more important than Kokito’s vacation — particularly when passengers require that scotch to induce sleep over the barking of animals whose brutish owners should never have brought them on the redeye from Los Angeles to New York in the first place. Kokito’s sad demise and the hysterical reaction it prompted illustrate a sadder fact of our culture: we value animals more than humans.
Among the two most prominent and praised activist organizations in the country are PETA, which protects animals, and Planned Parenthood, which kills babies. Veganism has proliferated throughout the United States, yet few vegans call themselves pro-life. Americans held candlelit vigils in 2016 for Harambe the gorilla, whom zookeepers shot as the animal dragged a three-year-old child through water.
A society’s mores emanate from its moral vision. A culture that slaughters babies and weeps for puppies will inevitably bring their pets onto airplanes, and that should keep us all up at night.