A Delta Passenger Got Deported, Then The Airline Lost Her Dog

Paula Rodriguez flew Delta Air Lines from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to Atlanta, intending to connect to San Francisco. Her dog traveled with her on the flight.

Though her paperwork was sufficiently in order for Delta to allow her to board in the Dominican Republic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied her entry to the U.S. in Atlanta.

  • The government prepared to deport her, first sending her to sleep in a detention center.
  • And her dog, that she rescued from the streets at one month old, wasn’t allowed to go with her.

Delta was ready to transport her back, as their obliged to do, but the dog was gone. Ms. Rodriguez cried, not wanting to take the flight without her dog, but the government forced her.

The next morning, last Saturday, Paula was ready to board her flight, but her precious cargo wasn’t there. And the airline she flew with, Delta, didn’t have answers.

“I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t get on this plane, I don’t know where my dog is,’” said Rodriguez. “I was crying, I had panic attacks on the plane, I had to get on the plane because the U.S. Border Control told me, ‘Hey, we can’t have you here by law in this airport for more than 24 hours.’”

When Paula got back to the DR, Delta still didn’t have an update on where Maia was.

Delta later informed her that the dog “broke out of her kennel” and was missing for two days. That’s when the airline’s communications stopped. According to a statement from the airline,

Delta teams have been working to locate and reunite this pet with the customer and we remain in touch with the customer to provide updates. Delta people feel deeply concerned for the customer and the dog and we’re committed to ongoing search efforts, working closely with the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation and other stakeholders.

The airport says they have no idea where the dog went, but promises to turn her over to Delta if she turns up.

It’s unclear why the passenger was refused admittance into the United States. The government, more or less, doesn’t need a reason. But surely separating passengers awaiting deportation from their dogs who were safe to travel on a plane with their own could be handled better by Customs and Border Protection.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I cannot imagine flying international only to be refused entry when you arrived. I always thought that there was some sort of precheck before you got on the plane.

  2. Paula Rodriguez was not DEPORTED from the United States, she was DENIED ENTRY to the United States.

    Two very different things.

  3. @Robert any country can deny you entry for any reason, regardless of whether or not an airline is willing to transport you. I have a colleague who was turned around at the Canadian border from a US flight. He question it, which was not appreciated by Canadian immigration. He was subsequently blacklisted and not allowed to enter Canada for some time.

  4. This is ridiculous, dogs don’t escape secured kennels. What Delta really mean is through either stupidity or willfull actions a Delta employee caused the dog to get out of the kennel and from behind two doors.

    They have video of everywhere in airports.

  5. “But surely separating passengers awaiting deportation from their dogs who were safe to travel on a plane with their own could be handled better by Customs and Border Protection.”

    This a feature of CBP, not a bug.

  6. She likely took a chance, knowing her dubious status, whatever it is(?), and she has lost her dog, at least temporarily, because of her gamble. And now other entities are to blame? Come on.

  7. That’s some pretty vile s#!t from Delta.

    Delta: Dog? What dog? Oh, it uhhhhh got away. That’s it, it somehow escaped from the cage and is nowhere to be seen. We didn’t kill it. Honest.

  8. @Michael:

    No, being denied entry means one can go somewhere else and fix whatever problem led to the denied entry. Most countries are very clear on the requirements to enter, e.g., having a passport valid for at least six months or the length of proposed stay, abusing the immigration system and living in the country on multiple tourist visas or visa waivers, not meeting financial requirements, etc. but there’s always the possibility that an IO is just having a bad day, doesn’t like one’s look, is responding to a bad attitude, etc.

    Being deported is a whole ‘nother process and usually one has to do something pretty heinous and go through a fair amount of procedure to get deported; in most countries, if one is deported, one also gets blacklisted for some period of time before one is allowed back in.

  9. I doubt that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a facility to deal with pets. Why throw shade on them? The real bad actor in this case is Delta. The dog was in their custody and they have an obligation to take care of it until it is returned to it’s owner. Their seeming indifference is what I would expect from them.

  10. “the dog “broke out of her kennel”

    I call B.S. on that one. Delta should at least come clean with what happened.

  11. She was denied entry and then deported back because she was a woman. Period. Go to any of these detention centers and see first hand what is happening. And it’s really sad. Agents flag any woman traveling alone and either put them through hours of questioning or deny them entry. However, if a man alone, rarely are there issues. A friend in Austria loves to travel to the US but is routinely taken to rooms for two hours of questioning. This a woman who is of means and traveled to 100 countries over the years. Their main question over and over is…”How can you be alone? Where is your husband? Why would you travel without him?” It’s sickening and an embarrassment to this country. Bottom line…if she has a return ticket, credit cards or money, and specific travel plans, there is absolutely no reason to detain women like they do. Perhaps this case was a red flag, but most are not. They just don’t like letting in women who travel alone.

  12. @Stuart:

    No, having only a return ticket (or ongoing ticket), credit cards or money, and specific travel plans IS NOT enough for a citizen of the Dominican Republic to enter the U.S.

    A citizen from the Dominican Republic also needs a U.S. B1/B2 visa, which is valid for tourism, business, and medical reasons only and IS NOT valid for working or permanent residence; as well, a holder of a B1/B2 visa can only stay in the U.S.180 days per entry.

    A B1/B2 vis a IS NOT a visa waiver, sometimes incorrectly called a “visa on arrival”, so if she had that squared away before she ever went to the airport in the DR, that in-and-of-itself should not have caused an entry denial.

    So if Paula Rodriguez was abusing the U.S. visa system by using a valid B1/B2 visa to perform visa runs, i.e., continually leaving and re-entering the U.S. to reset the 180-day limit, in order to live in the U.S., then the IO was doing his job and should be commended.

    Too many people don’t realize that pretty much every country has computers that keep track of aliens’ comings and going and it’s a slam-dunk for an IO to figure out who’s abusing the visa system in order to live and work in a country without meeting the proper visa requirements.

  13. @Christian:

    No, Delta sent it to a nice farm in upstate New York where it will have plenty of room to run freely and to play with all the other dogs

  14. @Darby

    My friend is Austrian, wealthy, married, well traveled, and is routinely targeted at US airports and brought to questioning rooms for 2-3 hours. Because she is a woman who often travels alone and enjoys visiting friends in the US. The system targets women. Men in her situation are never questioned.

  15. It’s quite ridiculous the scrutiny international travelers get yet hundreds of thousands arrive illegally each month anyway.

  16. So the dog, which looks pretty small in the photos, “broke out of her kennel”. Forgive me for being skeptical. I am afraid the story was much sadder and may have involved a dog left in her kennel without food and water for two days dying. We will never know unless Maia is miraculously found and returned to her person.

  17. Let me start off by saying that Delta should know that live animals require special care, and losing one in transit is inexcusable. Stories like this is why we have the plague of “support animals” in the cabin.

    That said, also, going to side with the comment that refusing entry does not equal deportation. Deportation happens when you are in the country, lose the right to be there (or never had it to begin with), and are caught. Refusing entry means you get to the border and are turned around. She would’ve needed a visa, and border officers must be convinced that she intended to abide by the restrictions of her visa to gain entry. Contrary to what some commenters believe about the southern border, the majority of those illegally present in the country were legal upon entry but never left. No, seriously. Please just stop with the “CBP so hard, but millions swim across the rio grande.”

    Also, side note, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the visa waiver program. The program is for low risk travelers. Primary inspection is to speed through travelers who are obviously low-risk, with patterns that match well-established reasons for entry under the intended visa category. Women flying alone do not routinely get sent to secondary; that’s just absurd. Someone routinely sent to secondary must be triggering red flags through travel patterns and answers to the basic questions primary asks. Multi-year, multi-entry visas are available, and wait times are not actually that long in Europe. Obviously a visa is no guarantee of entry, but may overcome whatever concerns are being raise by primary when entering under VWP.

  18. @Andy. You are wrong. Women are targeted. Period. Even wealthy married women from Austria who travel regularly to the US to visit family and friends every 2-3 months, who travel in business, and have plenty of means, are being harassed. With questions being centered around why they are not with a husband. One agent even suggesting that “Next time you should come with your husband. It’s not safe for you here alone.” This to a woman who has traveled to over 100 countries and could out maneuver most men pretty much anywhere in the world.

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