On August 18, Paula Rodriguez was flying from her home in the Dominican Republic for a two-week vacation in California with her six-year-old dog, Maia. On the Delta airlines flight, Rodriguez and Maia had a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. What happened next is every pet parent's worst nightmare.
When Rodriguez arrived in Atlanta border force staff informed her that she “didn’t meet the requirements” of her tourist visa and she'd have to spend the night in a detention center before she could catch the next flight back to the Dominican Republic, and that the detention center didn't allow dogs. A Delta agent took Maia and Rodriguez was told that her beloved dog would be fed, looked after and safe.
CNN reports, "Rodriguez’s flight back to the Dominican Republic was scheduled for 10.20 a.m. the following day, and border staff told her that they’d pick her up from the detention center one hour and 45 minutes before her departure, to take her to the gate, where her dog would be waiting."
The dog wasn't there. Rodriguez was able to switch to a later departing flight in hopes her dog would join her. When Maia wasn't at the next gate, border agents told Rodriguez that she couldn’t be in the US for more than 24 hours without a visa.
From CNN, "Upon landing at Punta Cana, she filed a report. Meanwhile, her mother went to Santo Domingo in case the dog had ended up there without anyone realizing.
“I called Delta, Atlanta airport, even San Francisco. I filed every claim possible. I called all the shelters and veterinary surgeries I could in Atlanta. I was in agony for two days with no answer,” said Rodriguez.
On the Monday, two days after the dog went missing, she says she was called by a Delta representative in Santo Domingo.
“He said that she was being transported [to the plane] on the runway, and staff had opened her kennel, and she had got out of the car and escaped into the middle of the runway,” she told CNN.
“Planes were taking off and coming in. He said they chased her but she ran faster and faster and she escaped. That’s all I know.”
Even though Maia is microchipped, the airport has over 4,000 acres so there's no telling where this dog is. Since Rodriguez's visa is cancelled, her mom has flown to Atlanta to look for Maia.
Rodriguez was quoted as saying, “I’m in agony. I’ve been living a nightmare since Friday, knowing my baby is out there somewhere scared, or might be injured. All kinds of thoughts come into my head and I can’t do anything. Every minute feels like a day.”
I can't imagine what Rodriguez is going through but it's ridiculous that the airline lost Maia to begin with. Traveling with your dog is stressful enough without having to worry an airline employee will open their carrier and they will escape.
Here's hoping this sweet dog is found and reunited with her owner soon.
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