Think twice before you let your beloved dog — or bunny rabbit — fly.
is investigating an incident where one of the world’s biggest rabbits was found dead when a three-foot Continental Rabbit named Simon was found dead on a flight from the London Heathrow airport when the airplane landed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The rabbit was reportedly traveling in the cargo hold. “Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle,” breeder Annette Edwards told the U.K. Sun newspaper. “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.” United told the newspaper it was investigating the incident. (The airline did not respond to request for comment.)
United had the most animal deaths of all U.S. airlines last year for the second year in a row on scheduled domestic or international passenger transportation, according to Department of Transportation data. It had 9 deaths of animals and 14 injuries, meaning it had 2.1 incidents involving the transportation of animals per 10,000 in 2016. Delta Air Lines
had 5 animal deaths on flights and 5 injuries, equating to 1.23 incidents per 10,000. American Airlines
had 4 deaths of animals and 1 injury last year, while Hawaiian Airlines
had 3 deaths of animals and no injuries. Alaska
and Skywest Airlines
both had 2 animal deaths each and each had one animal injury.
United had the most animal deaths of all U.S. airlines last year for the second year in a row on scheduled domestic or international passenger transportation, according to Department of Transportation data. It had 9 deaths of animals and 14 injuries.
In 2015, United Airlines reported 14 animal deaths and 8 injuries or 2.37 incidents per 10,000, making it the U.S. airline with the most incidents for that year, followed by 11 deaths and 5 injuries on Delta, which equated to 1.86 incidents involving the transportation of animals per 10,000. All other airlines had animal deaths in single digits. An “animal” for this purpose is any animal being kept as a pet in a family household in the U.S. or any dog or cat shipped as part of a commercial shipment on a scheduled passenger flight. (The price to bring a pet on a flight can range from $100 to $2,500, depending on the pet, the carriage and the airline.)
In some cases, the reason was natural causes, though it’s difficult to know whether if/when they were caused or exacerbated by the flight conditions. In July 2016, a dog called Pinkerton was discovered deceased upon arrival of a United flight at Phoenix, Ariz. In that case, the cause of death was heart failure. In September 2016, however, an American Staffordshire Terrier died of heat stroke shortly before a United flight left San Salvador in El Salvador. In two other cases, the owners declined tests to determine the cause of death for their dogs. There were also multiple injuries caused by pawing and chewing metal cages during the flight. (United has a program called PetSafe to transport animals that are not eligible to travel in the aircraft cabin.)
‘We strongly discourage having your pet travel by air in the cargo hold of a plane,” its policy states. It can be dangerous and stressful. Some animals aren’t suited for travel due to temperament, illness or physical impairment.’
The Humane Society of the United States advised U.S. airline passengers not to fly with their pets: “We strongly discourage having your pet travel by air in the cargo hold of a plane,” its policy states. “It can be dangerous and stressful.” Cats, for instance, do not enjoy change and taking them on trips is usually not a good idea, it says. However, for those who do, it recommends keeping a health certificate and medical records close. “It’s tempting to want to bring your pet with you, but some animals aren’t suited for travel due to temperament, illness or physical impairment,” the organization says. “Think about where your pet would be happiest.”
Each airline is required to report the total number of reportable animal incidents for the entire calendar year and the total number of animals transported in the calendar year. These reports must be filed with the Department of Transportation within 15 days after the end of that year. This annual report is required even if a carrier had no reportable incidents during the year. None of the airlines on the list were immediately available for comment. Several airlines, including JetBlue
Virgin America and Southwest
do not transport animals.
Last year, Delta Air Lines announced that it would no longer allow customers to check their pets with their baggage, unless passengers are a member of the military with active transfer orders or require service animals. Certain pets can still travel in the cabin for a fee, and a Delta spokesperson told MarketWatch they can travel in the cargo hold of an aircraft after the policy takes effect when shipped as freight via its Delta Cargo service. On Delta flights alone, 74 pets have died in a decade, accounting for about 25% of all recorded airline pet deaths in the U.S., and 14 pets have gone missing.