Following several high-profile pet deaths and mishaps, United Airline has disclosed a more stringent pet transportation policy.
The U.S. carrier said Tuesday that it will merely accept dogs and cats — and no other type of animal — in its cargo holds beginning June 18. Dozens of snub-nosed and strong-jawed dog and cat breeds will also be banned from flying in the airline’s PetSafe program, which applies to animals traveling in the cargo compartment.
The banned breeds — which include mastiffs, Pekingese, shih-tzus, several bulldog breeds, as well as Burmese and Persian cats — were singled out because of “higher adverse health risks, ” United said, adding that it had worked closely with the animal welfare group American Humane to improve its pet travelling program. Snub-nosed, or brachycephalic, puppy and cat breeds are known to be more vulnerable to flying-related health problems.
“We are doing this to further minimize risk and ensure the comfort of pets we fly, ” United spokesman Charles Hobart told People magazine of the pet policy overhaul. “Prior to today, we flew all sorts of animals. Geese, foxes, leopards, you name it, we pretty much flew it. That will change moving forward.”
Hobart added that the airline previously prohibited only six dog breeds from flying in shipment compartments. Concerns about pet health and consolation prompted the more extensive ban, he said.
“We understand that[ the new policies] can present challenges to folks who have traditionally flown their pets where they need to be, but our overwhelming concern is ensuring the comfort of those animals and this is how we have to do it, ” Hobart said.
Among domestic carriers, United had been one of the most lax when it came to the transportation of higher-risk breeds. Other domestic carriers, like Delta and American Airlines, already have blanket prohibitions on brachycephalic puppies in their cargo compartments.
Under the new guidelines, United also will restriction the travel of pets to and from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tucson between May 1 and Sept. 30, due to concern about hot temperatures.
United’s policy overhaul follows the March death of a French bulldogon one of its flights. That puppy had been traveling in an overhead luggage bin in the main cabin when it died. United temporarily suspended its PetSafe program for pets traveling in the cargo compartment after the animal’s death, and said it would conduct “a thorough and systematic review” of the program.
The airline has said also is reviewing its policy for cabin animal transport. For now, the carrier continues to allow “domesticated cats, puppies, rabbits and household birds( omitting cockatoos) to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S.” so long as the animal’s kennel can fit totally under the seat in front of the passenger.
United, which boasts the ignominious title of having had the highest number of animal deaths of any U.S. carrier in 2017, also recently described criticism for other mishaps involving pets, including transporting two dogs to incorrect destinations earlier this year and the death of giant rabbit in the cargo compartment in April 2017.
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