A rabbit breeder, whose giant rabbit froze to death after being placed in frosty temperatures for 16 hours by airline staff, has been given a five-figure compensation by the United Airlines.
Simon, the three-foot long bunny, was frozen to death last week Wednesday on it’s way to America to meet its new celebrity owner.
The pet was alive and healthy when the owner, Annette Edwards, took him to the airport. She revealed that a vet had checked him before he was placed on the flight and declared him fit. He was alive when he was taken off the plane from London’s Heathrow airport but died at a holding facility at Chicago O’Hare Airport.
Edwards became suspicious after she was informed that Simon was dead and she kept demanding for the truth of what happened to him and also for his body but the airline told her he had been cremated. She became convinced that foul play was involved in the death of her pet and it was later confirmed by an airport worker who revealed that the pet was placed in frosty temperatures by mistake for up to 16 hours, causing it to freeze to death last Wednesday.
“The whole thing stinks of a cover-up. I had been asking United over and over again for his body so that I can have him examined here in Britain but they never got back to me,” Edwards earlier told The Sun.
“Then finally, late on Friday, they called and told me he had been cremated and there was nothing they could do. I suspected he was dropped but to find out he was frozen to death has really knocked me. I had asked for the CCTV but they wouldn’t give me it and now I know why.
Simon was Edwards’ most prized bunny and was expected to outgrow his enormous father to become the largest rabbit in the world. A celebrity in Iowa had just bought him and he was on his way to his new owner when he got locked in a freezer on a United Airlines flight overnight. The new owner intended to show him at the Iowa State Fair. A pen and toys had been made ready for the pet and on the day of his expected arrival, the owner’s manager had driven from the Des Moines area to Kansas City and was nearing the airport to welcome Simon when United called with the bad news.
When reports emerged that Simon died due to carelessness on the part of the airline’s staff, a United spokesman denied the claims, saying:
“That assertion is completely false. Simon was cared for at the PetSafe kennel facility which is kept at room temperature (on average 70F). He arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport in apparent good condition at 10:25 am (local time). He was seen by a representative of the kennel facility moving about within his crate about 11:00 am. Shortly thereafter, a kennel representative noticed Simon was motionless and determined that he passed away.”
United said the rabbit was moving around in his crate and appeared healthy when taken off the plane in Chicago, waiting to be put on another flight to Kansas City. About half an hour later, at the company-run pet facility, Simon seemed to be asleep. Shortly after that, a pet facility employee opened the cage and found the rabbit dead. The spokesman said the airline was reviewing its handling of the animal.
“We won’t know the cause of death because we offered to perform a necropsy free of charge – that’s standard procedure – but the customer didn’t want us to perform a necropsy, and we understand,” he said.
Edwards, the former Playboy model turned bunny breeder, has been awarded an undisclosed cash sum on the condition she does not discuss the case. The incident is the latest embarrassment to United Airlines after it sparked global outcry last month when a passenger was dragged off an overbooked plane.