A Missing Dog, A Misdirected Email, And A Careless Airline

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 3, 2013 – 6:02 am

Last month, a woman named Jutta Kulic booked an Air Canada flight from San Francisco to Victoria, British Columbia. The flight wasn’t for herself—it was for a greyhound named Larry. She had promised a dying friend that she would deliver the pup to a good home, and she was making good on her promise by sending Larry to a Canadian couple. 

Despite giving the airline explicit instructions—do not open his crate unless you’re in an enclosed space—an airline worker decided to take Larry for a walk. Larry got away. The airline couldn’t find the dog.

When a Sacramento news station contacted Air Canada, here’s the email spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick sent them:

“I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog. Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the U.S. media spends its time.”

Jutta Kulic

Oops. Mr. Fitzgerald sent an email intended for a colleague directly to the news station. He shouldn’t be surprised that news organizations would cover a missing pet—it’s manna from heaven for today’s sensational media culture—but it’s the next two things that happened that made me decide to write a post about the incident.

First, check out what he told The Toronto Star:

“I guess I’m the poster child now for Be Careful With Email,” Peter Fitzpatrick glumly told the Toronto Star.

Fitzpatrick had grown exasperated with the reporter’s email because the airline didn’t have the answers. “We didn’t ignore them. It wasn’t like we didn’t respond,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’d given them our statement and there really wasn’t more to say.”

Fitzpatrick, a veteran public relations official, told the Star that he regretted this email, but to suggest he was callous or uncaring is “an unfair portrayal.” He said the email was partly meant to be a joke.”

The misdirected email was bad enough. But instead of turning the focus solely onto the missing pet, he made the follow-up story about himself—Unfair portrayal of me! I’m the poster child! It was a joke!

Larry The Dog

It gets worse. Larry was killed.

Last week, we learned that after Larry escaped from his crate, he was struck by a car and had to be euthanized. According to The Vancouver Sun, the airline released a statement:

“Air Canada’s employees are extremely sad with the news about Larry,” the statement said.

“Many of our employees are pet owners and animal lovers, and our San Francisco team in particular continued to hold out hope that Larry would be found safe.”

The company said it has reminded employees about its policies for transporting animals.

Frankly, I don’t care if the airline is made up of pet lovers or not. And I don’t care that they’re “extremely sad.” Their sadness won’t prevent another pet from getting lost when in their care—action will. Here’s the statement they should have released:

“When passengers entrust us with their pets, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure they arrive at their destinations safely. That didn’t happen in this case, and that is unacceptable to everyone who works for this airline. We must do better, and we will. We are putting into place a new set of policies and procedures and will train every member of our frontline staff on the safe handling of pets during transit. In the meantime, we want to apologize to Ms. Kulic. We’re sorry.”

The airline has offered a free flight to the couple that was set to adopt Larry. They’ll use it to adopt Larry’s brother, Leo.

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A grateful tip o’ the hat to Heidi Anderson, the Public Relations Manager for SFUSD.

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