Baggage handler fired for helping injured dog bound for cargo hold

Lynn Jones with her three dogs, Junior, Manny and Jewel, from left. / Marilyn Newton/RGJ

UPDATE to original story as posted below: Late Tuesday, Lynn Jones was offered her job back, with backpay, by Airport Terminal Services as reported by the Reno Gazette Journal. Jones said Tuesday she was worried about retaliation should she return to the job, but is considering the offer and appreciates the firm TMs efforts to make the situation right.

We've heard the horror stories surrounding pets traveling in the cargo holds of airplanes. But a Nevada woman who was trying to avoid adding another chapter to that ongoing saga says she was terminated for trying to help.

Lynn Jones was working as a baggage handler at Reno-Tahoe International Airport when she saw an emaciated hunting dog, with bloody paws and its body covered with sores.

The pointer was lying in a pet carrier in the cargo area of the airport on Nov. 15, waiting to be shipped to Texas.

"The Transportation Safety Authority officers couldn't even get the dog to stand up to be X-rayed," Jones told the Reno Gazette Journal. Jones, at the time, was an employee of Airport Terminal Services, the facility's contractor.

"Everyone who saw it, the TSA people, the Airport Police officers, the girls at the ticket counter, was concerned. The dog was so weak and torn up. It didn't look like it could survive the flight."

Jones told the Gazette Journal that her supervisor told her to load the dog on the plane because the animal's paperwork was in order and its condition wasn't her concern. She said she was warned she would lose her job if she kept carrying on about the dog.

"I was crying," she said. "I kept saying that dog could not be put on a plane."

The Airport Police called Washoe County Regional Animal Services, which took custody of the pointer and provided it with veterinary care. Jones said animal control officers also were appalled at the dog's condition.

Jones said she was fired from her job on the spot.

"(My supervisor) kept yelling, 'That's it, you're done, you are out of here, go home,'" Jones said. "I left."

Officials of Airport Terminal Services, which is based in St. Louis, did not return calls for comment. Jones said when she called the company after the incident, she was told she was no longer an employee because she had "abandoned" her job.

"I didn't abandon anything; I was told to leave," she said.

When Jones went to animal services last week to get a copy of the incident report, officials said the document is confidential. They also declined to provide the Reno Gazette-Journal with any information about the incident or other recent animal abuse cases because "Cooney's Law," passed this year by the Legislature, keeps cases' details secret.

"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."

She said shipping documents indicated that the dog was owned by a hunter in Texas who keeps it in a kennel and has it shipped to the places he hunts.

"I hope he didn't get the dog back," Jones said.

Did the handler do the right thing? Or should she have been fired for going around her supervisor? Do you trust airline and airport workers to do the right thing when flying your animals as cargo?