WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGE
UNITED Airlines says it takes "full responsibility" for the death of a dog that was kept in an plane cabin's overhead compartment during a flight from Texas to New York.
According to passenger Maggie Gremminger, who posted her account of the tragedy on Facebook, the dog, which was understood to have been about 10 months old, was travelling in a TSA-approved dog carrier with a woman and her two children.
Ms Gremminger said a flight attendant forced the reluctant woman to put her dog and the dog carrier in the overhead compartment, even though the woman tried to resist.
She eventually did what she was told and the plane began its journey. By the time it arrived at New York's LaGuardia Airport, the dog was dead.
"Tonight I was on a plane where I witnessed a @united flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog carrier (with dog) in the overhead compartment. The passenger adamantly refused but the flight attendant went on with instruction," Ms Gremminger said.
"At the end of the flight - the dog was found in the carrier. I am heartbroken right now. I didn't question the flight attendant, but I could have.
"I assumed there must be ventilation as surely the flight attendant wouldn't have instructed this otherwise. I heard the dog barking a little and we didn't realise it was barking a cry for help."
After the plane landed and the dog's lifeless body was found in the overhead bin, its distraught owner cried on the floor of cabin, Ms Gremminger said.
"There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel," another passenger, June Lara, said on Facebook.
"There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy."
The incident has sparked a flurry of furious comments on social media.
"They need to fire that flight attendant. That's animal cruelty!" one person posted on Facebook.
"This is horrible, sick and wrong," another said.
Another Facebook user said the story made left them "absolutely horrified and speechless".
Ms Gremminger said the was "disgusted and traumatised" by the incident.
"Pets are family," she added. "How could a trained flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog in that bin. It was her job to understand the plane and its rules/limitations."
It was certainly United's bad re: deceased dog, but was there no one on that plane to stand up and say "this isn't right?" We stand up for...a lot...in this country as is our right. Did no one think that would end up badly?— Ryan Stanzel (@rstanzel) March 13, 2018
Never flying @united. Between the passenger dragging and the dog killing I'd rather walk.— jon ronson (@jonronson) March 13, 2018
United Airlines took responsibility for the incident in a statement to Business Insider.
"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin," the airline said.
"We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."
United Airlines has the worst record for pet deaths on-board its flights.
In August, the airline was blamed for the death of Lulu, a five-year-old King Charles spaniel, who died in the cargo hold during a flight.
And in April, a high-profile giant rabbit named Simon died in the cargo section on a United flight from London to Chicago.
The airline faced legal action from Simon's owner, former Playboy model Annette Edwards.