Bipartisan bill introduced to protect animals on planes after dog's death

Bipartisan bill introduced to protect animals on planes after dog's death
© Greg Nash

A pair of lawmakers on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent airlines from placing animals in overhead compartments, a move that comes as United Airlines faces another public relations crisis following the death of a dog on one of its flights.

Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSchumer urging ex-congressional candidate Amy McGrath to run against McConnell Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona Former McCain chief of staff says he will not run for Senate in Arizona in 2020 MORE (D-Nev.) introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act (WOOFF), which calls on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish rules that would block the airlines from placing animals in the overhead bins and impose civil fines when those rules are violated.

“United Airlines is promising to put special tags on pet carriers to help flight attendants in the future,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I’d rather make it the law that animals aren’t to be treated like an old piece of luggage.”

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The legislation comes after United earlier this week confirmed a dog died on one of its flights after the pet carrier was placed in the overhead bin.

Cortez Masto on Thursday blamed pet deaths on “human neglect and carelessness.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy in a Wednesday letter to the president of United said the number of animal deaths aboard their flights last year is “inexcusable” and called for an explanation.

The issue of pet protection also comes as lawmakers prepare to take up a long-term reauthorization of the FAA, which is likely to receive a short-term patch on the upcoming omnibus spending bill.

United said Wednesday it would implement a new policy using "bright colored bag tags" for pet carriers by April.

The airline also said in its latest statement that the flight attendant did not understand the owner when she said the dog was in the carrier. But the owner's daughter pushed back on United's account.

“She [the flight attendant] actually touched the bag and felt him there,” Sophia Ceballos, the owner's 11-year-old daughter, told ABC News. “She’s basically lying to us now.”

The incident occurred nearly one year after a viral video showed a passenger being forcibly dragged off a United flight.

Lawmakers threatened legislative action last year in response to that video, which placed United in the middle of a public image crisis, and called for additional consumer protections.