In response to a public relations nightmare about their terrible record of protecting pets while traveling, United Airlines announced a new pet travel policy. From now on, the only pets they will fly are dogs and cats. The new rules include a ban on transporting a number of dog breeds (and several breeds of cats) in the hold of their aircraft. All brachycephalic dogs (short-nosed dogs such as Pugs, Llasa Apsos, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Affenpinschers, Bulldogs) are prohibited from traveling in the hold. This is because such dogs are more likely to have adverse health effects when flying.
This means that United essentially recognizes that these dogs cannot travel safely on airplanes unless they are in the cabin with the human passengers. Recognizing this can prevent dog death and severe suffering, but should heighten our concern about the risks of air travel to all of our dogs. Another way the airline is trying to prevent dog injuries and deaths is to ban pets five months a year (May through September) with cargo to and from hot destinations like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, and Palm Springs to travel.
Dogs of all breeds that fit under the seat in pet carriers can still fly, but the policy effectively prohibits adult dogs of a number of breeds. I am curious to see who will enforce race bans at the airport. Some dogs are obviously short-nosed like pugs, but can all airport employees identify a Belgian Malinois, Chow Chow, or Mastiff as a member of the no-fly dog list?
There are also restrictions on the size of the crates allowed – no larger than 30 inches – and the number of connections a pet can have. United Airlines reserves the right to refuse to fly an animal if weather conditions are deemed unsafe and they can even change a dog’s route to avoid exposing the animal to harsh conditions.