COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The decision by United Airlines to suspend the program transporting pets in cargo holds following several high-profile problems has left many Colorado families, especially military families, scrambling to find a way to transport their pets.
It's Cassandra Luppens' mission as a "Pet Relocator" in Colorado Springs to reunite pets with their people.
"This is really heartbreaking because people will start giving up their pets," she said, talking about the ripple effect she already sees from United's suspension of its PetSafe travel program.
A military family just contacted her this week to ask about relocating their Boxer to a new base in Maryland, but now they will have to drive him across the country.
"The dog cannot travel on any other airline because it's considered a snub nose," said Luppens, who said United is one of the only domestic airlines that hasn't banned snub-nosed breeds, which can have difficulty breathing when anxious. She pointed out that United ships more animals than any other airline (about 380 a day).
They are kept in a cargo area that is pressurized and temperature-controlled, just like the cabin, Luppens said. "They had set the standard for other airlines, and it's really the boarding and cargo facilities that they need to train."
Luppens said they are seeing more military families deploying to Korea and Japan.
"United was one of our biggest carriers to service there. They fly direct from Denver to Norita from Denver. No other carrier does that," she said. "Now, we’re having to route through Europe to get pets to Asia."
In some places, like Hawaii, when United was the main carrier, she said it would cost as much as $1,200 to ship pets via ground transport to Los Angeles and then fly via cargo flight.
"We're going to see an increase in our shelters because people won't be able to afford to take their pets, and they're going to start leaving them behind," said Luppens.