May 1, 2018 / 8:39 PM / 20 days ago

United Airlines resumes animal transport program

NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) - United Airlines is resuming the shipment of pets in its airplane cargo holds, the carrier said on Tuesday, after having paused the program for improvements following the high-profile death of a puppy on one of its flights earlier this year.

United, the third-largest U.S. airline by passenger traffic, said it is partnering with the American Humane animal rights organization to improve the well-being of the pets it flies, after a spate of animal-related mishaps called into question the airline’s practices.

“As we continue our review process to ensure that we are always doing what’s right, we are committed to making significant improvements in our program,” United Vice President of Cargo Jan Krems said in a statement.

United suspended the program in March after a small puppy, Kokito, died on a 3-1/2-hour flight when an attendant forced its owner to stow the dog’s carrying case in an overhead bin.

Effective June 18, the Chicago-based airline will only accept cats and dogs in its PetSafe transport program, and no other household pets.

Short- or snub-nosed cat and dog breeds, like French bulldogs - the breed of the dog that died in the overhead bin - and strong-jawed dog breeds, like Mastiffs, will no longer be permitted to fly as cargo.

With the new requirements, United hopes to reverse a trend of animal deaths and injuries the Kokito incident highlighted.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the 24 animals that died on U.S. carriers last year, 18 were on United flights.

The animal problems only compounded a public relations nightmare tracing back to last spring when a passenger was pulled from his seat and dragged down the aisle of a parked United plane in order to make room for an airline employee.

Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Dan Grebler

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