A Toronto woman says a dog she rescued from the Dominican Republic was traumatized after being left in a corner of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with luggage for around 9 p.m.
Jena Butts had just spent three months in Puerto Plata, where she found and fell in love with a stray dog. She decided to bring the animal back to Canada and find a good home for it.
Butts, along with the lifeguard named Winston and his own dog, arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Around 2 a.m., his dog came out, but Winston didn’t.
“(I) spoke to some of the baggage handlers while they were there and said, ‘I’m still expecting a dog. They told me there was nothing else there,” she said.
At around 3 a.m., a customs officer advised her to go home and call the airline later, as there were no more staff around.
“I was very angry and couldn’t understand how no one could be at the airport to help me find my dog,” she said. “It’s a living creature.”
Butts spent the rest of the morning trying to contact the airline, Air Transat, to find out if Winston had even arrived in Toronto or if he was still in Puerto Plata.
About 21 hours later, Customs at Pearson airport spotted the crate.
“He was found in a corner with some lost bags,” Butts said.
A customs officer had pulled Winston out of her crate to give her water, Butts said, but the animal was still covered in urine when she reached him.
“He’s very traumatized,” she said. “I definitely won’t be traveling with dogs for a while now.”
Jena Butts is holding Winston after spending about 21 hours stuck in his crate after a flight to Toronto Pearson International Airport. (Carol Charles)
Butts said he received an email from GTA dnata, a service provider for Air Transit at Pearson Airport, apologizing for the incident and offering him a gift card as compensation.
“Although there were reasons for the failure of the service which caused you to wonder where your precious pet was, we can only assure you that we will take the necessary measures to ensure that no other owner no animal is faced with a similar situation,” said the general manager. Antonio Alvarez wrote. “You entrusted them with your precious cargo and unfortunately we let you down.”
“As a dog owner, I can fully appreciate the anguish our failure has caused you and we would like to offer you a small token of compensation in the form of a gift card for you to use as you wish.”
Butts said she still hasn’t heard directly from Air Transat. When contacted for comment, the airline told CTV News Toronto that it had requested a full investigation into the incident.
“We are deeply sorry that our client had to go through this stressful situation. We will contact them directly to provide full details and offer compensation. “
Butts said she was not at all interested in compensation. What she wants the airline to do is create a better policy when it comes to the treatment of live animals on their planes.
“I’m still very shaken up,” she said. “It’s hard to put my words together. We need a procedure, better policies.
“I feel like (Air Transat) could have handled the situation in a much better way and, you know, with a little more empathy because nobody seemed to care.”
She said Winston was supposed to be taken to his new home on the day he landed, but that was postponed a day due to the traumatic experience.
In recent weeks, travelers passing through Pearson Airport have filed complaints about lost luggage and delayed or canceled flights. Photographs show thousands of bags sitting lazily in the baggage claim area, waiting for owners to collect them.
A man told CP24 he arrived in Toronto 16 days ago and was still waiting for his lost luggage.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority cited staff shortages, flight delays and cancellations, and temporary mechanical disruptions as some of the reasons for “challenges with baggage.”
With files from Jessica Smith and Carol Charles of CTV News Toronto
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