[Update 7:20 pm PST Dec. 6: Jones has been offered her job back! Complete update tomorrow.]
All the airport workers who saw the emaciated, weak hunting dog in his crate at Reno-Tahoe International Airport were concerned it would not survive the flight to Texas. The Pointer’s body was covered with sores, his paws were bloody, and he was too far gone to stand up to be X-rayed.
Despite their concern, the dog made it past all checkpoints. That is, until it was time to get loaded onto its flight. There, baggage handler Lynn Jones put her job on the line for the sake of the dog: She refused.
“I was crying,” she said. “I kept saying that dog could not be put on a plane.”
She says her supervisor told her to stop going on about the dog; its paperwork was in order, and she needed to do her job. She continued to refuse to load the dog.
At some point, the airport police became involved and called Washoe County Regional Animal Services.
“[My supervisor] kept yelling, ‘That’s it, you’re done, you are out of here, go home,'” Jones said. Her company, Airport Terminal Services, had said she abandoned her job, but she says she left only when she was ordered to leave.
(Update Dec. 5: ATS has been deluged with calls and emails about this incident and has posted a short press release on its website. In it, it states: “ATS takes this situation extremely seriously and commends this employees situational awareness and her desire to raise the concern on behalf of the canine involved and relieved to hear that the canine will fully recover. ATS very much appreciates and supports the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authoritys and the Washoe County Regional Animal Services for their care and support for the canine. Additionally, ATS is investigating the situation to ensure all protocols were followed in the handling of this canine.”)
But she was apparently still around when Animal Services came a’calling. “The animal control people were wonderful at the airport, and right after they took the dog, they said it was in very bad shape, but it would probably pull through,” Jones said. “After that, they could tell me nothing.”
They could tell her nothing because of new Nevada legislation called Cooney’s Law. The law is an excellent one in some respects. It makes severe animal abuse a felony. (You don’t even want to know the torture its namesake dog endured at the hands of his owner, who got charged only with a misdemeanor.)
The law has a confidentiality clause that was meant to protect reporters of abuse from retaliation. The intention was not to prevent cases from being discussed, but that’s how some officials have interpreted it. Even members of the media could get no information on the case of the airport dog because of what has effectively been seen as a gag order. The local District Attorney’s office is re-examining the confidentiality clause of the law.
It’s the reason no one knows the fate of this poor dog. The dog (I’m not even sure of its gender, since the article calls the dog “it”) was nursed back to health in Reno, according to airport officials, and shipped to Texas. “In all my years here, this is the first time I’m thoroughly disgusted over what I understand to be the situation this animal was put in,” said Krys Bart, CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority. (The Airport Authority was not Jones’s employer. In fact, they are the ones who stood up for the dog, with Jones. The Authority really seems to have the best interest of dogs in mind. Check out this note in response to the dog story on the Airport Authority’s page.)
Was the dog shipped back to its abusive owner? Very few people know. But if the interpretation of the law changes, we may find out.
Meanwhile, there’s the matter of this woman who cared so much about the fate of this dog that she put her job on the line. Jones lives with seven rescued animals: three dogs, three cats, and a bird. She worked as a contractor with the airport firm for more than five years, and had exemplary reviews. She could use a job right about now.
“I wouldn’t have traded that job for anything. I wouldn’t have risked it for anything. But I just couldn’t turn my back on that dog,” Jones said. “My supervisor said it wasn’t my concern, but animal abuse is everyone’s concern who sees it.”
Dogsters, two things: What would you have done if you’d seen a dog about to go on a flight in that condition? And do any of you know someone in the Reno area looking for a hard-working employee with integrity?