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United Airlines reaches settlement with the owner of a French bulldog that died in an overhead bin

United Airlines reaches settlement with the owner of a French bulldog that died in an overhead bin
Pua, a 5-month-old French bulldog, at a news conference at the American Kennel Club headquarters in New York in March. United Airlines reached a settlement with the owner of a French bulldog that died on a flight in March. (Mary Altaffer / AP)

United Airlines has reached a settlement with the owners of a French bulldog puppy that died after a flight attendant allegedly insisted the dog be stowed in an overhead bin for a 3½-hour flight.

The dog's death in March turned into a viral social media scandal that prompted animal rights groups to call for the flight attendant to be fired and United to overhaul its rules for transporting pets. The furor even led to the introduction of federal legislation.

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United declined to discuss the terms of the settlement but said "we are deeply sorry for this tragic accident."

New York attorney Evan Oshan, who represents the dog's owners, the Robledo family of Queens, said the airline and the family reached an "amicable settlement" but declined to discuss the terms.

"We hope the death of Kokito won't be in vain," he said, referring to the bulldog. "We hope all airlines will be moving in the direction of adopting the best safe transport policies."

The incident began when a flight attendant on a flight from Houston to New York ordered an animal carrier to be put in the overhead bin, saying it was too big to fit under the seat. The owners of the carrier insisted they told the flight attendant the carrier contained a dog but the airline said the flight attendant either didn't hear or understand that part of the exchange.

United announced a few weeks ago a new pet travel policy that includes a ban on the transport of dozens of breeds of dogs and cats in the cargo compartment. The airline declined to discuss what, if any, disciplinary actions were taken against the flight attendant involved in the incident.

Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) have filed legislation to prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead bins. The bill, dubbed the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act, has been referred to a Senate transportation committee, but no vote has been scheduled.

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