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United rolls out new pet transportation policy, bans certain breeds

Following several high-profile pet-related incidents, United is tightening its cargo rules — and banning some breeds altogether.
by Harriet Baskas /

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Following a series of pet deaths and shipping mishaps — including one Kansas-bound dog being sent to Japan — United Airlines has issued revised policies for its PetSafe animal transportation program, which will now only carry cats and dogs in the carrier’s cargo hold and ban certain breeds entirely.

Under the new rules, which go into effect as of June 18, more than 25 breeds of short-nosed cats and dogs are banned from the cargo hold. That includes Chow Chows, bulldogs, mastiffs, pugs, and Pekingese; as well as cat breeds including Burmese, exotic short-hair, Himalayan, and Persian.

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Due to concerns about shipping animals during hot weather, United Airlines will no longer accept reservations to ship any animals to or from airports in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson between May 1 and September 30 each year, when temperatures routinely soar above 100 degrees.

The new rules also place limits on the number of connecting cities a shipped pet may be routed through, discontinues a program that sold or provided crates for pets at airport facilities, and limits the height of crates to 30 inches. Reservations for a pet’s travel on United can now be made up to 30 days in advance of travel, but reservations must now be made at least five days before the day of travel, whether the animal is traveling on the same flight as its owner or not.

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United Airlines said it is continuing to review its pet handling processes and policies, including those that cover in-cabin pet travel, and is working with the animal welfare organization American Humane on the details of all programs.

“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 and adhering to the best practices of animal comfort, well-being and travel on behalf of our customers and their pets," said Jan Krems, United's vice president of cargo in a statement.

United will begin accepting reservations June 18 for pets traveling on the same flight as their owner (or guardian) beginning July 9. Reservations for pets traveling alone on or after July 30 will not begin to be accepted until July 16.

United’s new PetSafe rules for transporting animals in cargo do not affect the rules for animals traveling in the cabin. In April, shortly after a dog died on a United flight after a flight attendant told its owner to put the pet carrier in the overhead bin, United issued revised policies for in-cabin pets. Those rules require passengers to check in with an airline representative to get a yellow tag for the pet’s kennel that will alert cabin crew of the pet’s presence.

In March, the airline also tightened the rules for emotional support and psychiatric service animals traveling in the cabin.

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