It was Christmas Eve 1996 when Boris, a mix of pit bull and boxer, escaped from his shipping cage and disappeared as he was being unloaded from a Delta Air Lines flight from Fort Lauderdale at New York City's LaGuardia Airport. Boris's owner, Brooklyn artist Barbara Listenik, now 37, searched frantically for the next six weeks. Then a family living two miles from the airport realized from flyers that the stray they'd been feeding was Boris and reunited him with a tearful Listenik. "People thought that since I'd gotten my dog back the story had a happy ending," says Listenik. "It didn't happen that way."
In fact, Boris had suffered serious injuries, including shattered teeth and a broken nose, while on the loose. But when Listenik asked Delta to reimburse her for the more than $6,000 she'd spent to find Boris and have him cared for by a veterinarian, she was told that under federal regulations pets are considered cargo, and she could claim only $1,250 in compensation—the same maximum that applies to a lost suitcase. (Delta had also given her $500 to include in the $3,500 she gave as reward money.) "I couldn't believe it," says Listenik. "But the law's the law."
So Listenik has set out to change it, collecting more than 1,000 signatures for what she calls a "Boris Bill" that would amend federal flight regulations. Among its proposed provisions: removal of the limit on liability for animals and improvement of climate conditions in the hold when they are shipped. Listenik will be presenting her case to the National Bar Association in Washington, D.C., this January. Accompanying her, naturally, will be Boris. Says Listenik: "His little bark will be heard."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine