Some evacuees of Hurricane Irma do not see leaving their animal family members behind as an option, so when American Airlines denied Matt Varga a flight out of Florida because he was unable to find a proper carrier for his puppy, Meeka, he decided he'd just have to "ride out the storm."
"I don't have a pet carrier," he told a CNN reporter at the airport. "They won't let me on without a pet carrier."
Varga's sister wrote on Facebook that her brother had purchased his ticket through American Airlines. In an attempt to meet the airline's rigid requirements for the transportation of animals, Varga said he searched 10 different stores for a pet carrier, but each one had been sold out.
HuffPost reported that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper remarked after the interview that American Airlines should have bent the rules a bit given the impending natural disaster.
"It's not a huge dog," he said. "You'd think they'd make an exception."
During desperate times in the past, airlines have adjusted their rules in order to save lives. As Twitter users mentioned in their response to Varga's predicament, in 2016 Canadian North Airlines and West Jet allowed pets to ride in their owner's laps and fill the cabin aisles to escape the horrific Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta, Canada.
HuffPost pointed out the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act passed by Congress in 2006 after the devastating loss of animal life in Hurricane Katrina was a powerful step toward minimizing casualties in natural disasters. However, while the legislation requires relief efforts to be inclusive of pets, it's mandate does not extend to private companies or airline regulations.
American Airlines' decision to allow Varga and Meeka onboard would have been an act purely of heart, something it seems they don't have.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman