May 10, 2010— -- There are few travel nightmares worse than having the airlines lose your luggage, but for Josiah Allen something a lot more personal didn't make the trip home with him: his dog Paco.
"This should never, ever happen," Allen said. "It should never happen with baggage either, but a live animal."
Allen and his girlfriend had been visiting some friends in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when they came across a stray dog on the beach. Their friends said the dog was often seen roaming around town and Allen decided to rescue the small dog, a mix of a Dachsund and a Jack Russell terrier.
He spent $95 on vaccinations for rabies, kennel cough and giardia and had the dog treated for fleas and ticks. Allen, 19, and his girlfriend bought a carrier, leash and collar and prepared to take Paco home to Canada via Detroit.
Except Paco never arrived. He's been gone for a week now.
"There is no excuse for this kind of situation to take place, and I expect that when you pay to have a live animal flown with you to take him home that Delta Airlines would take every precaution and action needed to make sure that is what happens," Allen wrote to the blog Consumerist, which first reported the incident.
Paco made the first leg of their May 3 trip, from Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City on AeroMexico. During the five-hour layover, Allen and his girlfriend walked the dog and played with him before putting Paco back into his crate for the final flight on Delta Air Lines to Detroit.
Allen, a student at The University of Waterloo in Ontario, said Delta warned him that the crate was too small and that Paco might get injured. He said he signed a waiver absolving the airline of any liability and then boarded his flight to Detroit.
(For those looking to travel with dogs, check out Delta's requirements for kennel sizes.)
After waiting for 20 minutes at the pet claim area in Detroit, Allen and his girlfriend began to suspect that something was wrong. It took nearly two hours to sort out what happened to Paco, but they were told that night that the dog didn't make the plane but was being cared for by Delta employees who were walking and feeding him. Paco would be placed on the next flight to Detroit and then delivered to his home in Canada, Allen said.
The next day, Allen's friend in Mexico called the airport to try and find out more information. That's when they were told that dog had broken out of its carrier and escaped.
Delta told ABC News the same thing.
"Our staff have conducted exhaustive searches to locate the dog which escaped from its kennel on May 3 in Mexico City," Delta spokesman Susan Elliott said in a statement. "In the meantime, we have been in contact with the dog's owner to inform them of the situation and to offer our sincere apologies that we have been unable to recover the dog."
Elliott would not say why Allen was told the dog was ok while waiting at the Detroit airport.
Allen said there is no way a small dog like Paco could scratch or break his way out of the carrier.
"I do not believe for a second that Paco escaped from his carrier," Allen said. "It was a very secure hard plastic pet carrier with two locks and a metal wire door."
"I don't know if he's in his crate somewhere, not having eaten in a week or if someone stole him or what," Allen added. "They haven't taken any responsibility, beyond a couple of apologies. This shouldn't be able to happen."
Delta has reimbursed Allen the $200 he paid to fly Paco home, offered to cover all of the other costs to vaccinate the dog and provided him and his girlfriend each with $200 credits towards future flights.
Allen still isn't happy, especially since he says he plans to never fly Delta again.