One day after a dog died on a United Airlines flight, U.S. congress began making moves to better protect pets when they board planes.
The Welfare Of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act was officially filed on Thursday to prohibit animals from being placed in overhead bins. While United has a reputation for dismal service when it comes to transporting pets, the most recent incident prompting this new law has reached a new level of reproach.
Catalina Robledo and her daughter boarded their United flight to New York with their dog, Kokito, in an airline-approved carrier. The grieving family told media outlets they were forced to place the carrier—with the dog inside—into the overhead compartment. They tried to argue, but the flight attendant insisted. Three-and-a-half hours later when the flight landed, the dog was dead.
The most likely cause of death for 10-month-old Kokito was suffocation due to not enough airflow within the closed overhead space. United has since apologized and taken full responsibility for what they’re calling a “tragic accident.” They said in a statement,
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences.”
United also released a follow-up statement on Wednesday declaring that while they’ve confirmed the dog’s owner told the flight attendant the dog was in the bag, the flight attendant “did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin.” They announced that to keep the miscommunication from happening again, they will start attaching brightly colored bag tags to in-flight animal carriers starting in April.
While United admitted their devastating mistake, that hasn’t appeased pet owners, animal advocates, or law makers. Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy announced on Twitter his plan to file a bill that will make it illegal for airlines to place animals in the overhead bins. He’s working with Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro to make the WOOFF Act happen.
The objective of the WOOFF Act will be to direct the Federal Aviation Administration to not only prohibit putting animals in overhead bins but to establish fines for any airline caught in defiance of the new rule. For most people, the fact that animals don’t belong in the overhead bin is straightforward. Retired airline captain Denny Kelly told CBS News,
“There is no circulation at all in there. They’re scared, their heart rate goes up and they use more oxygen. And there’s not enough oxygen in the first place, that just makes it worse.”
In addition to filing the bill, Sen. Kennedy also wrote a letter to United demanding answers. He wrote,
“I don’t particuarly enjoy having to legislate, or trying to legislate, common decency, but by God, I’m going to do it until they take us seriously.”
Do you think the WOOFF Act will bring about positive change for pets and hold airlines accountable for how they treat animals on board?