Bunny rabbit in a cage

United Airlines Bunny Death: Simon Rabbit Incident Just The Latest In String Of Animal Deaths On US Flights

United Airlines is in hot water again over yet another incident involving a flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. According to the Inquisitr, a giant bunny named Simon died on Monday night while being transported from London to Chicago. The death of this rabbit is causing renewed outrage for the beleaguered company. However, is the problem of animal deaths on flights really unique to United Airlines?

According to the Inquisitr, Simon was the 10-month-old son of Darius, the largest rabbit in the world, who weighs in at a whopping 50 pounds and is four-foot-four inches in length. The furry legacy was purchased by farmland investment manager Bryan Bergdale for Steve Bruere, who owns an Iowa real estate investment company. Bunny breeder Annette Edwards traveled with Simon on his journey to Chicago. She stated that when the bunny underwent a required medical check-up before the flight, the veterinarian stated that the rabbit was perfectly healthy. The bunny was found dead at the aptly named O’Hare airport shortly after the plane arrived.

ABC News states that the three-foot-long bunny rabbit seemed healthy as he left the plane in O’Hare, according to United spokesman Charles Hobart. However, staff soon discovered that what appeared to be an innocuous bunny nap was actually the permanent stillness of death. Marcia Coburn, President of Red Door Animal Shelter, says that it is not easy for rabbits to endure the experience of flying in a cargo hold with predators, explaining,

“It’s still going to have that prey animal instinct, it’s still going to be scared…they can die of heart attacks out of fear.”

According to ABC News, a post-mortem examination was not performed to determine the cause of the bunny’s death.

United Airlines’ Record On Animal Deaths

According to the New York Times, 35 animals died in transit in the United States in 2017. Although seventeen airlines were included in the United States Department of Transportation study, United Airlines accounted for 14 of the 35 deaths. USA Today reports that 53 creatures died on United Airlines from January 2012 to February 2017, making them responsible for over one-third of deaths aboard U.S. flights over the past five years, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report from the Department of Transportation.

United Airlines plane in New York
[Image by Julio Cortez/AP Images]

Although these numbers comparing United Airlines to other airlines are shocking, it should be noted that United did not have the worst track record with animal demise when those numbers are compared with the total number of creatures that United Airlines has transported, reports USA Today. In 2016, United Airlines reported deaths or injuries in only 2.11 out of every 10,000 animals transported that year, of which there were a total of 109,149. That year, Hawaiian Airlines had a rate of 3.99 animal deaths or injuries per 10,000. Envoy Air has an even worse track record, with 5.98 animal fatalities or injuries out of every 10,000 transported in 2015.

According to USA Today, seven airlines (Allegiant, Frontier, JetBlue, National, Southwest, Spirit and Virgin America) did not transport any animals in cargo last year.

Is It Safe To Fly Animals In Cargo?

According to the leader of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the answer is no. USA Today published President of PETA Ingrid Newkirk’s explanation:

“This rabbit’s death is not unique — more than 300 animals have died in cargo holds since 2005, and many more have been injured or lost. PETA urges United to join JetBlue and Southwest in prohibiting companion animals from being flown as checked baggage in the confusion, noise, extreme temperatures, and improper pressurization of a cargo hold.”

Janet Sinclair, a woman who flew her dog and cat from California to Massachusetts in 2013, concurs. Condé Nast Traveler reports that United Airlines staff neglected to transfer the pets to an air-conditioned van during a Houston layover as promised, instead leaving the greyhound dog in a crate in 91-degree heat on the tarmac, while the cat was still inside the plane. The pets never made it to the climate-controlled van. When Sinclair arrived in Boston, she was horrified to discover that the inside surface of both crates was covered in feces and vomit. The dog, whose surroundings were also covered in blood, had been left in the crate for the entire 15-hour journey and was not given an opportunity to exercise during the layover as promised. The cat was dehydrated but relatively stable. After Sinclair took the apparently dying dog to the vet, the greyhound was diagnosed with heat stroke and a urinary tract infection that were a result of the hyperthermia that the dog suffered during her United Airlines flight. Sinclair says of the ordeal,

“She trusted me…if I’d known how she would be treated, I would never in a million years have traveled on the plane with my dog.”

Cat looking out window on airplane
[Image by Ivan Kokoulin/Shutterstock]

International pet moving specialist Cory Robinette says that the chances of a pet dying on a flight are very low, explaining, “It’s not likely. We are moving pets daily all around the world and we don’t have incidents of death,” reports local Tampa outlet WTSP News. Robinette urges pet owners to prepare in advance, getting the pet used to the crate in order to reduce stress-related injuries.

Transporting pets in the cargo area of a plane is a controversial practice that is facing further scrutiny in light of the death of a prized rabbit on a United Airlines flight. This latest incident comes only a few weeks after United Airlines violently dragged passenger Dr. David Dao out of an overbooked plane after the doctor refused to leave voluntarily. This debacle led to mass protests of United Airlines, according to the Inquisitr. It is unclear whether there will be another public outcry over United Airlines’ role in the unfortunate bunny death.

[Featured Image by Naurora/Shutterstock]

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