NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A German Shepherd that United Airlines mistakenly shipped to Japan finally made it home to Kansas on Friday (March 16), even as the carrier was still grappling with fallout over the death of a puppy on a separate flight this week.
The 10-year-old German Shepherd named Irgo, which was supposed to arrive at Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday, was reunited with its owner Kara Swindle three days later on Friday.
It had been mistakenly shipped to Japan instead while a Great Dane was sent to Kansas City.
On Friday, Ms Swindle shared photos of her dog en route in a private chartered plane to the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Kansas.
She shared a video clip on Facebook of her reunion with her pet, which was visibly elated to meet her, barking and wagging its tail.
Ms Swindle had told Kansas City's KCTV that she was worried that given the 10-year-old dog's advanced age, it would not be able to survive the long flight home.
"He's never been on a flight before. I honestly don't know if he's going survive this flight," said Ms Swindle, who is in the process of moving from Oregon to Kansas.
United Airlines said in a statement on Thursday that the mix-up was due to an error which "occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations".
"We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and are on their way to be reunited with their owners," said the embattled airline. "The German Shepherd is currently en route from Tokyo to Wichita. The Great Dane arrived safely in Tokyo and is awaiting its connecting flight to Hiroshima."
United's treatment of animals was questioned earlier this week when a French bulldog puppy in a carrying case died after a flight attendant insisted that the dog's owner put the animal in the overhead storage for the 3½hour flight from Houston to New York.
United has apologised for the death and said it was the result of a misunderstanding between the flight attendant and passenger about whether there was an animal in the carrying case.
The carrier has the highest rate of animal deaths and injury of any United States airline at a rate of 2.24 per 10,000 animals transported, according to the US Department of Transportation.
On Thursday, US senators John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act (WOOFF) bill that would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit storing live animals in overhead compartments and establish civil fines for violations.
The Transportation Department has said it is looking into the events that led to the dog's death and was in contact with the US Department of Agriculture, the agency that enforces the Animal Welfare Act and handles complaints about alleged animal mistreatment.