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Thursday 17 August 2017

More turbulence for United Airlines over death of Simon the giant rabbit

Lawyer Guy Cook looks at a photo of giant rabbit Simon at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Lawyer Guy Cook looks at a photo of giant rabbit Simon at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

United Airlines has not explained why a giant rabbit died after being flown from London to Chicago or why it had the animal cremated within hours of his death, a lawyer for the rabbit's buyers said.

Des Moines lawyer Guy Cook, representing an Iowa group that bought the continental giant rabbit named Simon, said his clients want details about Simon's death and an explanation of why he was cremated before a post-mortem examination could be conducted.

Mr Cook said he sent a letter to United on May 4 but has not received a reply, other than a confirmation that the matter had been referred to the airline's lawyers.

"United has taken no action to rectify this," Mr Cook said, raising larger questions about how the airline treats the animals it transports.

"This case is about more than one rabbit."

Simon flew from Heathrow Airport to Chicago on April 20 and was supposed to fly an onward leg to Kansas City, Missouri, but he died after landing at O'Hare International Airport.

United spokesman Charles Hobart said the company had reached "a satisfactory resolution" with the rabbit's breeder, Annette Edwards, from Worcestershire.

Asked about the letter from the animal's buyers, the cremation or other issues, he said only that Ms Edwards was United's customer and that she had turned down an offer of a post-mortem examination.

He declined to answer other questions.

News of the rabbit's death came as the airline was struggling to repair its image following the videotaped removal of a passenger from a United plane at O'Hare airport.

Images of the passenger, who was battered as he was dragged from the plane, circulated widely on social media and prompted condemnation and threats of a lawsuit.

The passenger quickly reached a settlement with United for an undisclosed sum.

Earlier, the airline was criticised after two young girls were not allowed on a flight because they wore leggings.

Speaking in front of a large video monitor displaying a photo of the dead rabbit on its side in a large crate, Mr Cook said the group of Des Moines area businessmen who bought Simon had intended to display him at this summer's Iowa State Fair.

After winning a prize for the largest rabbit, the men intended to take Simon to other events and raise money for the fair, an Iowa event that stretches over 11 days in August, Mr Cook said.

The owners are seeking the costs of buying and transporting the rabbit - estimated at 2,300 dollars (£1,777) - and future earnings.

When he died on April 20, Simon was about three-and-a-half feet long and weighed 20lbs.

Mr Cook said he could have grown to weigh 40lbs, probably making him larger than Simon's father and the world's biggest rabbit.

AP

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