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A senator is banning putting animals in airplane overhead compartments

The story of the puppy that died on the United flight has made it to Congress.

Rachael Ray Celebrates The 10th Anniversary Of Her Pet Food Brand, Nutrish
Don’t put puppies in overhead compartments.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Nutrish

A story about a puppy dying in an overhead compartment on an airplane has made it to the halls of Congress.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) proposed legislation — the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act (WOOFF) — to ban putting live animals in overhead storage compartments after a dog died on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York this week.

United Airlines has since apologized for the incident, in which a flight attendant forced a passenger to put her French bulldog puppy, which was in a pet carrier, in the overhead compartment shortly after she boarded the flight. After the plane landed, the dog was found to be not breathing.

According to the New York Times, the passenger resisted putting the dog in the overhead compartment so but eventually complied. It is against United Airlines policy to put live animals in the overhead compartment — guidelines say pets must travel in carriers “fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.” United is investigating the incident.

Under the Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, each airline can establish its own rules on animals in the passenger cabin as long as they comply with Department of Transportation rules around service animals — which are not considered to be pets.

“If an airline does allow you to bring your pet into the cabin, we consider your pet container to be carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry on baggage rules,” the FAA writes on its website.

Kennedy’s bill, co-sponsored with Nevada Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto would establish civil fines if animals are put in overhead compartments.

According to reporting from Roll Call, “more than a half million animals flew in 2017, nearly 140,000 of them on United flights. Of the 24 that died, 18 were on United flights. Delta and American reported two animal deaths apiece.”

“Pets are family,” Kennedy tweeted Wednesday. The senator also wrote a letter to United Airlines president J. Scott Kirby requesting information on how many animals had died in the company’s care recently.

“What happened to this pet was disgraceful, and I can’t imagine how the pet’s owner feels. But we need to get to the bottom of it,” Kennedy told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “And I know we have many important things to do, but this is important, too.”