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'Distraught' model blames airline for dog's death

10:53 AM, Sep 23, 2012   |    comments
Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images Maggie Rizer, here at a movie screening in Manhttan in April, became famous posing for Louis Vuitton, Versace and Calvin Klein.
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By Scott Stump, TODAY
Model Maggie Rizer says she took all the necessary precautions to prepare her two dogs for a cross-country flight two weeks ago, but she claims the negligence of United Airlines resulted in the death of her 2-year-old golden retriever.

Rizer, 34, had flown with her two dogs, 7-year-old Albert and 2-year-old Beatrice, in the past and had meticulously prepared them for a flight from New York to San Francisco with her husband and son. In a post on Thursday on her blog, Bea Makes Three, she wrote that Beatrice "had a perfect health record" and also detailed what she perveived as the indifference of the United Airlines employee who informed her that her dog was dead.

"When we arrived in San Francisco to pick up our dogs we drove to the dark cargo terminal and on arrival in the hanger were told simply, 'one of them is dead' by the emotionless worker who seemed more interested in his text messages,'' she wrote. "It took thirty minutes for a supervisor to come to tell us, 'it was the two year old [sic].'''

The Rizers had an autopsy performed on the dog, and the doctor concluded that the dog's death was a result of heatstroke, according to her blog post.

"We understand that the loss of a beloved pet is difficult and express our condolences to Ms. Rizer and her family for their loss,'' United Airlines said in a statement to People. "After careful review, we found there were no mechanical operational issues with Bea's flight and also determined she was in a temperature-controlled environment for her entire journey. We would like [to] finalize the review but are unable until we receive a copy of the necropsy."

Although the number of pet deaths on airplanes is relatively low considering hundreds of thousands of animals travel up in the air each year, flying is not without risk. Between January 2012 and July 2012, 17 pets died and another 17 were injured on commercial airlines, according to reports issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"We understand that the loss of a beloved pet is difficult and express our condolences to Ms. Rizer and her family for their loss,'' United Airlines said in a statement to People. "After careful review, we found there were no mechanical operational issues with Bea's flight and also determined she was in a temperature-controlled environment for her entire journey. We would like [to] finalize the review but are unable until we receive a copy of the necropsy."

Although the number of pet deaths on airplanes is relatively low considering hundreds of thousands of animals travel up in the air each year, flying is not without risk. Between January 2012 and July 2012, 17 pets died and another 17 were injured on commercial airlines, according to reports issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Rizer said she paid United Airlines $1,800 to transport their pets. After she was told of her dog's death, Rizer says that she had to argue with United employees to get Beatrice back, so that she could have an autopsy performed.

Rizer, who once earned $30,000 a day as one of the late '90s crop of supermodesl, made headlines in 2004 after she discovered that her stepfather had gambled away $7 million of her savings and left Rizer with $2 million in debt to the IRS while acting as her accountant.

Rizer said she does not plan on filing a lawsuit and United Airlines has announced it plans on reimbursing the travel costs. Rizer told People that she adopted a rescue dog the day after Bea's death.

"Aside from being completely emotionally distraught over the loss of our little Bea, I am so saddened by the complete lack of competence, honesty and compassion that United has shown," she wrote. "... I am writing this to help make people aware that airlines are incapable of ensuring the safety of our pets."

TODAY

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