GOP Senator Demands Answers From United Airlines in Wake of Dog’s Death

Sen. John Kennedy / Getty Images

Republican Sen. John N. Kennedy (La.) sent a letter to United Airlines on Wednesday demanding answers for the high number of pet casualties that have occurred under the airline's watch.

Kennedy's letter comes amid backlash the airline giant has generated for forcing one of its passengers to place their 10-month-old French Bulldog in the overhead compartment for the duration of a three-and-half-hour flight from Houston to New York. The passenger and her 11-year-old daughter were mortified to discover upon landing that the dog had suffocated mid-flight. United has taken responsibility for the dog's death and has issued an apology.

TMZ shared a picture of the pup on Twitter following the incident.

In Kennedy's letter, addressed to United Airlines President J. Scott Kirby and made available to the public, he demands explanation for why the airline's procedures and practices have resulted in the deaths of more animals than its competitors. Kennedy cites a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation showing that 18 of the 24 animals who died while under the care of a major airline last year were under United's care. Furthermore, another 13 animals suffered injuries last year while flying United. Delta and American Airlines, in comparison, reported two animal deaths each.

"For many people, pets are members of the family.  They should not be treated like insignificant cargo," Kennedy wrote. "Frankly, they shouldn’t be placed in the cargo hold much less an overhead bin."

Kennedy said the number of animal deaths that have occurred on United aircraft is inexcusable and warrants a review of the airline's practices to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

"This pattern of animal deaths and injuries is simply inexcusable," the senator said.

On Wednesday, Kennedy also announced his intention to introduce legislation prohibiting major airlines from placing pets in overhead bins during travel. The senator, citing the fact that many Americans view pets as "family," said his legislation would slap airlines in violation with "significant fines."