Owner charged with animal neglect for abandoning dog at Iowa airport says he ‘knew someone would take her’

A dog owner has been charged with animal neglect for abandoning his pet at an Iowa airport after being told he needed a kennel to get on his flight.

Bigsen Charles, 24, is accused of tying up his dog named Stella outside the Des Moines International Airport and jumping on a plane to Newark, New Jersey, by himself on 29 December after the seven-month-old pup was barred from the flight.

Mr Charles claimed he had paid for Stella to travel with him but didn’t realise she would need to be in a kennel to do so.

“I already checked in and didn’t want to miss my flight,” he told the Daily Mail. “I thought if I paid for the dog on the plane they would give her a kennel. I didn’t know I had to bring my own.”

Mr Charles said he’d tried to come up with a better solution - asking for the driver who brought him to the airport to pick Stella up and for airport staff to allow her to stay inside. When neither option worked, he said he tied Stella up outside in hopes that one of his friends could come get her, but he was unable to get through to anyone.

Eventually, Stella was found outside by airport staff who contacted the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Iowa. An animal control officer was sent to retrieve the puppy as authorities launched an investigation.

Tom Colvin, the CEO of Iowa’s ARL, told NBC’s Today that Stella was not alone outside for “very long” and said mercifully the weather “was a lot better than it was a few days prior... during the sub-zero wind chills”.

Mr Charles insisted that he did not intend to hurt the dog he bought for his daughter in July.

“I was crying when I left her because I didn’t want to leave her,” he said. “I knew someone would end up taking her.”

The animal control officer who retrieved Stella from the airport, Tina Updegrove, said Mr Charles admitted to her that he knows what he did was wrong.

A dog was left at an airport in Iowa after an owner was told that he couldn’t be taken on the flight (Screenshot / Animal Rescue League of Iowa / Instagram)
A dog was left at an airport in Iowa after an owner was told that he couldn’t be taken on the flight (Screenshot / Animal Rescue League of Iowa / Instagram)

“He broke the law. He understood he did,” Ms Updegrove told the Daily Mail. “If he flies to Des Moines and has gets into interaction with police he can get arrested on those charges.”

Ms Updegrove said she spent days trying to contact Stella’s owner after taking her back to the shelter.

“During the drive from the airport to the shelter, she warmed up to me,” she said of the pooch, who was named Allie by the shelter. “Her tail was wagging and she was smiling. She is quite fantastic. Such a sweetheart.”

Stella will now be put up for adoption, with Mr Charles’ permission, Ms Updegrove said.

“He verbally relinquished Stella. I told him the dog is doing well and happy and he gave me permission to find the dog a new home,” she said.

He added that “it certainly doesn’t look likely” that she’ll be reclaimed after the investigation. When the probe has concluded, she’ll be up for adoption.

According to Iowa state law, abandoning an animal is a misdemeanour, with the level of punishment depending on the harm done to the animal. Fines can range from $105 to $8,540 and prison time from 30 days to two years.

While Mr Colvin said this is likely his first time dealing with an animal abandoned at an airport, he added that “unfortunately, abandonment does happen a lot and for various reasons”.

“The takeaway on this is that lots of people travel with their pets. And that’s great that they do, it just simply means that they’ve got to prepare,” he added. “They’ve got to look ahead, find out what the requirements are, make sure they have the necessary documents for their pet, rabies certificate, those types of things.”

Mr Colvin said the is set to go to “a great home. No question about it”.

“We do a high level of adoptions at the Animal Rescue League and with this attention, she is really, really going to get a good [home]. She’s gonna have a list of people that want to adopt her,” he told NBC.