Safety of pets in United cargo is now being questioned after a healthy rabbit inexplicably died in transit.
Three weeks ago, United airlines made headlines when airport officials dragged a man, Dr. Dao, off a flight for refusing to give up the seat he purchased. After consumer reports were released last week, they had the highest pet deaths for pets traveling in 2016. Now, the airline is in the news after the death of a four-legged floppy-eared cargo passenger on Wednesday.
Simon, a continental giant rabbit measuring three feet, was on his way to Chicago's O'Hare airport, the same place where the altercation with Dr. Dao occurred weeks prior. Continental giant rabbits are closely related to the Flemish giant rabbit.
Hours before the flight took off from London's Heathrow, Simon saw a veterinarian and was declared "fit as a fiddle" by his breeder.
Simon was en route to a new celebrity owner in the United States. At only 10 months old, he was well onto his way of breaking the world record for biggest rabbit. His father, Darius, currently holds that title at a length of four feet four inches.
Airlines transport thousands of animals in cargo every year with a small percentage of them succumbing to death by unexplained causes. In 2015, United carried approximately 100,000 animal cargo passengers to their destination. Of those numbers, 14 deaths and 9 injuries occurred.
In comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation tallied 35 deaths across 17 airlines--including United--in their airfield in that year. United noticeably accounted for a large portion of those deaths. Concerns were documented in a 2016 report that showed the same statistics for United.
Simon's breeder and former Playboy model, Annette Edwards, claims she has sent rabbits all around the globe but this is the first instance in which one of her animals has died mysteriously in transit.
But Edwards is also concerned due to contradictory reports of the rabbit's death. She was initially told Simon died in flight and was then placed in a freezer. However, a United spokesman now claims the rabbit was alive when the plane landed. The spokesman says Simon died later at a holding facility at O'Hare. Edwards is still fighting to get the body returned to her.
The rabbit's cause of death is still unknown, creating skepticism considering the clean bill of health he received mere hours before the flight.
United's CEO Oscar Munoz is putting out fires left and right, it seems, with one PR disaster after another.
But we all want to know--what happened to Simon?
Would you send your pet on a United flight? Tell us in the comments below.
WATCH NOW: Flemish Giant Rabbits Are Really Big Bunnies