New United Airlines Policy Considers Pets Cargo – and Bans Pit Bulls

UPDATE: Due to thousands of complaints, on May 10, 2012, United Airlines dropped its ban on Pit Bulls and eight other breeds that its new pet policy originally referred to as “dangerous.”

United Airlines planeWhen United Airlines – which officially merged with Continental Airlines on March 3 – announced it had adopted Continental’s “PetSafe” pet-policy program, customers were outraged because pets that could not travel in the cabin would now have to be shipped as cargo instead of baggage.

United used to charge $250 to ship a pet as baggage from the U.S. to most other countries. But with its new policy, because of third-party handling fees imposed in Japan and some countries in Europe, shipping a pet as cargo could potentially cost from $1,400 to $4,000, according to military.com.

Many military families stationed overseas feared they would have to leave their pets behind because they couldn’t afford to transport them.

In response to the public outcry, last month United decided to waive this policy for pets moving with their military families. “We value our relationship with the military very much and just wanted to see what we could do to help alleviate that burden,” United spokeswoman Mary Ryan told USA Today.

But flying under the radar is another troubling policy of the PetSafe program: Pit Bulls, along with American Staffordshire Terriers, Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentinos and five other breeds that are frequent victims of breed-specific legislation (BSL), are not allowed on any flights.

The policy originally referred to these breeds as “Dangerous Dogs,” but this verbiage was removed yesterday.

United is the only U.S. airline that singles out these particular breeds. American Airlines and Delta don’t allow Pit Bulls either, but for the reason they’re brachycephalic (short-snouted) – not dangerous. Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers and other snub-nosed breeds are also banned because they may experience breathing difficulties during flights.

BSL has fallen out of favor recently as people realize that it is not only unfair to discriminate against an entire breed, but breed bans have not proven to increase public safety.

While it’s a step in the right direction that United has stopped referring to these breeds as “Dangerous Dogs,” the embargo should be lifted entirely, and every dog – no matter what the breed – should be considered on an individual basis.

More than 31,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking United to stop discriminating against the nine breeds. The petition was started by Jesse Huart, a Pit Bull mom who hadn’t encountered problems flying her 10-year-old dog, Slaw, on other airlines.

Jeff Smisek, the CEO of United Airlines, can be reached by phone at 847-700-4000, via email at jeff.smisek@united.com or by mail at P.O. Box 66100, Chicago, IL 60666.

PHOTO: Lasse Fuss

Laura Goldman

Laura Goldman is senior social media writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. She does love dogs. And elephants and turtles. Along with writing about the loves of her life, Laura likes to play with her two pound pups and tell anyone who’ll listen just how awesome Pit Bulls are.

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