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Petition calls for United Airlines to exempt military families from dog transport ban

Cadence, a four month old service dog in training. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Within a few days of United Airlines announcing a new policy for transporting pets, more than 56,000 people have signed an online petition asking for an exemption for military families with dogs.

United Airlines said this week that starting June 18 it would no longer transport dozens of breeds with short or snub noses, including bulldogs, boxers and pugs, in the cargo hold, because studies have shown that they have difficulty breathing in planes.

Passengers can still bring small pets, including many of the breeds banned in cargo, into the cabin if the animal’s carrier fits under the seat without obstructing passengers from exiting.

But the policy, which doesn’t address service and emotional-support animals, also bans the transport of animals in crates bigger than 30 inches tall anywhere on planes.

The petition on Change.org says United has been the most affordable airline for transported animals, especially large-breed dogs such as Labradors, golden retrievers and huskies — breeds that can be transported on.y in crates more than 30 inches tall.

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The new policy may cause some hardship for military families based in Guam, where United Airlines is the only major U.S.-based carrier serving routes to the mainland.

The carrier said Thursday that it will allow military families and State Department and foreign affairs personnel to book new reservations to transport their pets in and out of Guam under the previous regulations — but only until the new policy takes effect June 18.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any other exceptions,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. “We know this can present challenges, but we hope our customers understand that we are making these improvements to help safeguard the health and safety of pets in our care.”

In most cases, travelers could book flights on other major U.S. airlines, some of which allow large breeds but tend to charge more.

The changes were prompted by the death of a 10-month-old French bulldog on a United Airlines flight in March from Houston to New York. United also flew two other dogs to the wrong destination in the days after the bulldog died.

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© 2018 Los Angeles Times

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