Woman says Delta lost her dog. The airline is still searching for the dog.
It was almost time for Paula Camila Rodriguez to board her flight back to the Dominican Republic, but Delta Air Lines agents at her gate could not find her dog, Maia.
Rodriguez, 25, arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with her 6-year-old Chihuahua mix on Aug. 18. But the Dominican Republic native was separated from her dog after problems with her tourist visa led to her being turned away at customs, Rodriguez said.
While she spent the night at an airport detention facility, Maia was supposed to stay at a Delta pet facility, an airline agent told her. And they would be reunited before the first flight back home the next day.
That was the last time she saw Maia.
Two days after returning home without her dog, a Delta agent said Maia broke her carrier in the middle of an active runway on her way to the pet facility the night of Aug. 18, according to Rodriguez. Airline workers ran after her, but Maia escaped into a restricted airport area, Rodriguez said.
“This happened on Friday and I found out on Monday,” Rodriguez said, adding: “They knew that my dog was lost when I boarded that plane, and they didn’t tell me.”
More than a week later, airline personnel and local officials are still looking for Maia at the world’s busiest airport. Delta flew Rodriguez’s mother to Atlanta to help search for the missing pet, bringing some of Rodriguez’s clothes to plant a familiar scent and recordings of Rodriguez calling for the animal, Rodriguez told The Washington Post in Spanish.
“Delta teams have been working around-the-clock to locate and reunite this pet with the customer and we remain in touch with the customer to provide updates,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said in an email. “Delta people feel deeply concerned for the customer and the dog and we’re committed to ongoing search efforts, working closely with the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation and other stakeholders.”
Airport officials are aware that Maia is missing and “will continue to remain vigilant should she appear” while its operations teams conduct runway and airfield inspections throughout the day, said Andrew C. Gobeil, an airport spokesman.
“If she is seen, ATL’s staff will attempt to capture her and return her to the airline and her owner,” Gobeil said in an email.
Maia came into Rodriguez’s life in 2017. She found Maia inside a box on the streets before Hurricane Maria made its way through the Dominican Republic. The plan was to give her shelter until the storm passed and take her to an animal rescue later, but Maia won Rodriguez’s heart. Since then, the two have been inseparable; Rodriguez has never had to use a leash with her, she said. They share a love for exploring, hiking and even surfing, if the waves are not too high, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and Maia boarded a Delta plane from Santo Domingo to Atlanta, a layover before California, their final destination, on Aug. 18. Rodriguez wanted Maia — who had never flown before — to accompany her on the trip to California to visit friends. She paid Delta for Maia, her emotional support dog, to fly with her inside a soft carrier under the seat in front of her, Rodriguez said.
Upon landing in Atlanta, Rodriguez said that customs officials told her that she had obtained the wrong type of visa. Maia had to remain separate from Rodriguez while she remained in the detention facility, but a Delta agent assured her that Maia would be safe at the pet facility, Rodriguez said. There, she’d be given water and food before the flight home the following day.
On the morning of Aug. 19, Rodriguez grew concerned when Delta agents at the gate couldn’t find Maia despite multiple calls. She missed the first flight out and agreed to take the next flight if that meant one more hour for Delta to find Maia, Rodriguez said.
“Don’t worry,” a Delta agent at the gate told her, Rodriguez recalled. “They are looking for your dog in various departments. I’m sure they’ll find her soon.”
When she arrived in the Dominican Republic without news about Maia, Rodriguez called the airline to file a missing pet claim. For two days, Rodriguez said, she struggled to get updates over the phone with airline representatives. Since then, she has hired a specialist in rescuing pets and has urged the airline to use food traps and K-9 dogs in the search.
“I am not going to rest until I find her,” Rodriguez said. “They can do better. They were capable of hiding the fact that my dog had been lost for over 48 hours and how she had gotten lost. That’s simply inhumane.”