New United Policy Bans Breeds, Sizes -- and Has No Military Exceptions

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United Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport on April 18, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) -- Getty Images

Military members stationed on Guam with large dogs or breeds newly banned by United Airlines may not be able to move their pets off the island after June 18.

The banned breeds and size restrictions, announced May 1, are the result of a United review of its pet shipping program, known as PetSafe, sparked by a series of pet transport disasters earlier this year.

United is the only pet transport service available to the 7,000 troops stationed at Guam's Navy and Air Force bases.

Starting June 18, the new United pet travel policy bans 21 breeds of dogs and four breeds of cat from traveling as cargo due to health concerns, officials said. Those breeds include short- or snub-nosed dogs such as pugs and "strong jaw" breeds like mastiffs, the announcement states. Banned cat breeds include Himalayan and Burmese.

Additionally, the airline will no longer accept "giant" crates taller than 30 inches, a restriction that will force owners to leave behind large-breed pets such as Great Danes and some large Golden Retrievers or Labradors, for example.

It also will no longer ship animals to or from Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; or Palm Springs, California, between May 1 and Sept. 30 due to high temperatures. If traveling internationally, pets must be shipped through a third-party contractor that is part of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.

The new rules were developed through a partnership with the animal organization American Humane, officials said.

"We know that there are going to be folks that are disappointed with these decisions," said Charles Hobart, a United spokesman. "We kept that in mind while we were reviewing the service. However, we think this is the right thing to do."

United originally suspended its pet shipping program March 20, but allowed an exemption for troops traveling on permanent change-of-station orders off Guam. That exception has been extended until June 17, when the new policy will go into effect. No military exceptions to that policy are planned, regardless of when the pet shipping reservation was made, Hobart said.

Officials with a Korea-based pet shipping contractor that services Japan and Korea launched an online petition May 1 asking United to grant military members an exemption. They speculated the new policy will result in a huge cost increase for pet owners trying to ship their animals from locations served by other airlines, such as Lithuania Airlines and Korean Air, which still allow some of the breeds on United's banned list.

But for those on Guam, alternate options are limited or simply non-existent -- at least for now.

Some families speculated on a Guam-based pets Facebook page that they might be able to piece together pet shipping to the island by booking flights on multiple carriers and traveling through Japan.

"You can use Delta to get your pets to Japan, and then Korean Airlines to get them from Japan to Guam. It's costly and a huge pain, but it's an option," one such post noted. "This is so heartbreaking."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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