News, Culture & Society

Artist is denied request to bring peacock on flight

A prominent Brooklyn artist ruffled some feathers at Newark Liberty International Airport over the weekend when she attempted to board a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles with her emotional support animal – a rescue peacock named Dexter.

The travel blog Live and Let’s Fly first reported about the bizarre scene that played out at the airport on Sunday, and the travel talk show the Jet Set later shared photos of the passenger and her feathered friend perched on top of her luggage cart.

The passenger, identified by on Tuesday as the critically acclaimed Bushwick-based photographer and performance artist Venitko, had reportedly offered to pay a second seat to accommodate Dexter, but stressed that she had a right to bring him on board as her emotional support animal, according to the travel blog.

Feathered friend: This is Dexter the peacock, whose owner, a Brooklyn artist, had attempted to take him on board a United Airlines flight as an emotional support animal but was denied 

He didn't fly there: The peacock's owner, who calls herself Ventiko, later posted this selfie on the bird's Instagram page, posing with her family and Dexter in Indiana 

He didn’t fly there: The peacock’s owner, who calls herself Ventiko, later posted this selfie on the bird’s Instagram page, posing with her family and Dexter in Indiana 

Creative: Ventiko, who adopted Dexter in 2014, is a prominent photographer and artist living in Bushwick, Brooklyn 

The airline denied her request to bring the large bird on board the flight.

A spokesperson for the airline tells that the traveler had been repeatedly told in advance that she would not be able to have the peacock accompany her on the plane.

‘This animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size,’ United spokesperson Andrea Hiller said in a statement. ‘We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.’

Hiller went on to say that United requires customers wishing to travel with an emotional support animal to provide documentation from a medical professional and at least 48 hours advance notice.

‘In our effort to better balance protecting our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities, we are reviewing our existing policy and plan to share more soon,’ she added.

According to the US Department of Transportation’s policy concerning ‘unusual service animals,’ they should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and airlines are urged to consider each animal’s size, weight, state and foreign country restrictions, and whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat, or cause a disruption on a flight. 

Ventiko on Sunday addressed the incident in a post on Dexter’s own Instagram page, which boasts 822 followers, writing from the bird’s perspective: ‘spent 6 hours trying to get on my flight to LA. Tomorrow my human friends are going to drive me cross country!’

On Monday, she was in Indianapolis to visit her family, who posed for a selfie with her and Dexter.

In an earlier post, which included a short video of Dexter grooming his feathers, Ventiko wrote that her bird had been cleared to travel to Los Angeles with her ‘to make “Art”.’ on Tuesday reached out to Ventiko for a comment and was awaiting a response. 

According to a 2015 profile of Venitko published in the Bushwick Daily, she bought Dexter and a peahen named Etta off of Craigslist in December 2014 for $200 because she wanted to icorporate live birds in her art installation at Select Air Fair in Miami.

She told the paper taht she and Dexter bonded right away -‘he gave me kisses and put his head in my mouth’ – but at the conclusion of the art show she handed both birds to another artist, who lived in florida.

Dexter and Etta mated and had chicks, but some time later the mom and baby birds vanished, and Dexter turned aggressive.

After learning that the peacock’s new owner had him living in a garage, Ventiko said she ‘had to intervene’ and ended up adopting him.

The vibrantly hued bird currently lives with the artist and her two cats in Bushwick, where she often can be seen walking around with Dexter on a leash.



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