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Dog dies while on a Delta layover. Owner alleges 'there's some kind of foul play'

Michael Dellegrazie says his 8-year-old Pomeranian, Alejandra, was found dead in his kennel on a Delta flight from Phoenix to Newark on May 30.
Michael Dellegrazie says his 8-year-old Pomeranian, Alejandra, was found dead in his kennel on a Delta flight from Phoenix to Newark on May 30. Video, NBC4

Alejandro, an 8-year-old Pomeranian, was flying cross-county with Delta Air Lines when he was found dead — and his owner later found a blood-stained blanket and vomit in his kennel.

Now, his owners wants answers.

“I want to know what happened,” Michael Dellegrazie told ABC News. “The dog is not a pet. He’s a member of our family.”

Alejandro was flying from Phoenix to Newark, New Jersey — where Dellegrazie and his girlfriend are moving — on May 30, ABC News reported. The caramel-colored pup was traveling in a kennel in the "cargo hold" of the plane.

A Delta spokesperson told WXYZ that a flight attendant checked on the Pomeranian at about 6 a.m. during a stop in Detroit — but when Alejandro was checked on two hours later, he was dead.

"To say they are distraught would be a gross understatement," the family's attorney, Evan Oshan, told WXYZ. "They are completely devastated."

Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hellerstedt told CNN there was "vomit and fluids" in the dog's cage.

"He was in their care and they didn't take care of him," Dellegrazie told WDIV. "When he landed here in Michigan, he was alive at 6:30 a.m., and then at 8:20, he wasn't moving and it just doesn't make any sense to me."

Dellegrazie told WDIV that he had taken Alejandro to a vet exam on Tuesday, and he was cleared to fly.

On Saturday, Dellegrazie flew into Detroit with Oshan, his lawyer, to pick up Alejandro.

WDIV reported that Dellegrazie found blood stains on his dog's blanket.

"Seeing that blanket, there's some kind of foul play (that) happened there. That's all I can think of," Dellegrazie told CNN.

When Dellegrazie picked up his dog's body and belongings, the Delta cargo facility was under investigation and blocked off with caution tape, a video by WDIV shows. Airport police were outside of the area with Alejandro's owner and his attorney.

Delta told ABC in a statement that the airline has offered to have a veterinarian check Alejandro to determine what happened.

"We know pets are an important member of the family and we are focused on the well-being of all animals we transport," the statement says. "Delta is conducting a thorough review of the situation and have been working directly with Alejandro’s family to support them however we can. As part of that review, we want to find out more about why this may have occurred to ensure it doesn’t happen again and we have offered to have Alejandro evaluated by a veterinarian to learn more.”

Oshan and Dellegrazie told WDIV that they will be taking Alejandro to get an autopsy to find out how he died.

"We lost a family member," Dellegrazie said. "That's exactly what happened, and somebody has to be responsible for it."

Alejandro is not the first animal-related incident to take place on a plane this year.

In March, a dog died while on a United Airlines flight after a flight attendant "insisted" a woman place her dog in the overhead bin, passengers said.

Also in March, a Kansas family was shocked to find out their dog was mistakenly flown to Japan due to a United Airlines mix-up.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that 506,994 animals were transported on a plane. Of those, 24 animals died, 15 were injured and one was lost.

A German Shepherd was reunited with its family in Wichita after being mistakenly shipped to Japan on a United flight. The family was flying to Kansas City as they prepared to move to Wichita when they discovered their dog had not arrived.

A female passenger described as “disruptive” caused a four-hour flight delay on American Airlines Flight 218 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Chicago on July 5. According to reports, the woman continued to recline her seat

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