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Why More Animals Died on United Airlines Than Any Other Airline in 2017

Why More Animals Died on United Airlines Than Any Other Airline in 2017
From TIME - April 4, 2018

More animals died on United Airlines in 2017 than any other airline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportations February 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report, which details everything from flight delays and mishandled baggage to disability and discrimination complaints. There were four airlines with reported deaths, and on United Airlines there were 12 more animal deaths than the three others combined.

The numbers in this report reflect last years animal fatalities, injuries, and lossesand it doesnt just pertain to dogs, but any animal flown, including cats and birds. The animals were either pets owned by U.S. families or animals being shipped on commercial flights (i.e. from a breeder). Heres a look at the numbers:

Totals:

United Airlines:

American Airlines:

Delta Air Lines:

Alaska Airlines:

Why are United Airlines totals higher than the three other airlines with pet-related-issues?

By the numbers, United flew more animals in 2017 than any other airline: 23,204 more than the next highest total number of pets flown (Alaska Airlines). And according to United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart, the airline flies risky breeds that others, including Alaska, American, and Delta, wont allow onboard. (Some airlines wont fly pets in cargo at all, according to the DOT report, including Spirit, Virgin American, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airlines.)

But youll notice that some of those animalsin fact a lot of them that died last yearwere what is called brachycephalic breeds, Hobart told TIME. These are dogs that essentially have a very short noseshort muzzles. Most other carriers dont fly those breeds. Dog breeds that are brachycephalic, include Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese. Some cats are also considered brachycephalic, including Persian, Burmese and Exotic Shorthairs.

These animals have a tougher time flying due to smaller openings to their noses and elongated soft palates on the roofs of their mouths, which make breathing more difficult for them, veterinarians said, according to a 2011 New York Times piece that detailed why these types of pets were being banned from airlines. Extreme heat and travel can also make it harder for these snub-nosed animals to breath.

Hobart contends that often United Airlines is the only option for these owners to fly with their pets, and he cited that roughly 3,000 military families used United Airlines PetSafe program for flying their pets in the cargo hold in 2017.

A detailed incident report of United Airlines pet deaths and injuries in 2017 (which the DOT report links to) shows that a slight majority of the dogs that died on a United flight were in fact brachycephalic breeds; there were also several other dogs, three felines, along with one bird and two geckos that died.

An in-depth analysis from the Washington Post found that from 2015 to 2017, 40% of dog deaths on United Airlines were high-risk breeds. Of the 85 pet deaths from 2015 to 2017, 41 were on United Airlines: 16 were high-risk breeds, 16 were other breeds, 5 were cats and the rest were other animals.

Still, theres room for improvement.

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