Air Canada is facing a backlash over a dog named Larry (pictured above) that went missing in its care, and a fumbled email from one of its spokesmen. Jutta Kulic/Facebook
An American woman who was attempting to relocate an Italian greyhound to a family in British Columbia, only to learn the dog was missing after it bolted from Air Canada employees at San Francisco's airport, says she's confirmed the animal died after apparently being hit by a car.
The case of Larry the greyhound caused a public relations nightmare for Air Canada, first because of the nature of the missing cargo and then after a company official inadvertently sent a dismissive email about the subject to an American television station.
The dog ran away from its handlers at San Francisco International Airport on Oct. 7. Air Canada has said workers took the dog out of its crate during a flight delay, but the animal fled after either slipping out of its collar or breaking it.
Jutta Kulic, a retired dog breeder from Medina, Ohio, was shipping the dog to a couple in the Vancouver Island community of Campbell River, B.C. The dog originally belonged to Kulic's friend, who recently died of cancer.
Kulic said she received a call earlier this week from a veterinary hospital in San Francisco, which treated the dog after a Good Samaritan found the dog on a highway the same day it disappeared, and brought it in. The dog was badly injured and was put down, said Kulic.
Larry was euthanized almost three weeks ago, but Kulic said the veterinary hospital didn't realize it was the same dog until this past Thursday.
"Finally, one of their staff members was going through the records, saw this Good Samaritan record and said, 'Oh my goodness, this is the dog everybody is looking for,'" Kulic said Saturday in an interview from Delaware, Ohio, where she was participating in a dog show.
"We were all very, very hopeful that he was still alive, so I know that they (the couple in Campbell River) were extraordinarily saddened, and so am I."
There were reports early on that Larry was spotted along San Francisco's Highway 101, and Kulic said at least one person thought they saw a vehicle hit a dog, but that was the last sighting connected to the animal.
Initial response 'abysmal'
As if the news that a major airline had lost a dog wasn't bad enough, an Air Canada spokesman added fuel to the story when he inadvertently sent an email to a local CBS-TV reporter that said: "I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog. Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the U.S. media spends its time."
The email was intended for another spokesman within the company, and Air Canada quickly apologized.
The airline issued a written statement after learning the animal had been confirmed dead.
"Air Canada's employees are extremely sad with the news about Larry," the statement said.
"Many of our employees are pet owners and animal lovers, and our San Francisco team in particular continued to hold out hope that Larry would be found safe."
The company said it has reminded employees about its policies for transporting animals.
Kulic said Air Canada's initial response was "abysmal," but she's been in touch with the company in the past few days.
She said Air Canada agreed to cover the veterinary hospital's expenses.
Dog's brother to fly as carry-on
The airline has also agreed to transport Lynda White — who, with her husband, Duncan, had arranged to adopt Larry the greyhound — to Ohio to pick up Larry's brother, Leo.
"Instead of Larry, Leo will be joining Duncan and Lynda in Campbell River," said Kulic, who, coincidentally, was showing Leo at a dog show in Delaware on Saturday, when the animal won the Best in Breed award.
"This dog will not be going in cargo. He's small enough to fit into the under-seat carrier, so he will be in Lynda's arms all the time."
Kulic said she and the White family are still considering their next steps.
She said they have yet to ask Air Canada for any additional compensation, such as to cover the veterinary bills to prepare Leo for travel.
"They certainly have a huge responsibility," said Kulic.
"I don't know what Air Canada is going to do, and I don't know what we're going to do. I just wanted them to fix what they had broken."
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