Air Canada is under fire this week for its response to the disappearance of Larry, a two-year-old Italian greyhound, on a flight from San Francisco. The dog’s owner had died of cancer and Jutta Kulic had found a family in Canada to take the animal. However, Air Canada reported that, during a delay, the dog was let out of its cage and then ran away. That is bad enough but a response from the airline sent people in both countries into a fury over the airline’s actions. This is a case where the company’s slogan appears to be “Go [TOO] Far.”
The message came from Air Canada’s Peter Fitzpatrick after Maria Medina, a reporter at a TV station, emailed Air Canada inquiring about the lost dog. The response was dismissive and disturbing: “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 US media spends its time.”
That did not exactly go over well with the public. Air Canada proceeded to quickly back pedal: “Air Canada acknowledges inappropriate comments were made to a reporter’s followup questions regarding Larry. Air Canada has been providing the best available information to media on this matter. However, these comments do not refer to the search for Larry by Air Canada employees that is ongoing or our interest in returning him safely.”
The airline says that it is still searching for Larry. It is not clear who would be in the best position to sue. The actual owner has died but Kulic took possession of the animal and a Canadian family had adopted him. Yet, their interaction with the dog was limited for the purposes of infliction of emotional distress claims. We have previously discussed how the value of pets is determined by the market as chattel and not companions. It is the pain and suffering to the owners as opposed to value of the animal that drives damage awards.