Best Friends Blog

United Airlines’ breed ban is a big step backward in customer service

They used to fly the “friendly skies” but United’s new policy of canine profiling is anything but friendly to families who travel with their dog if their dog happens to look like a pit bull.

Americans love their pets and view them as family members. United’s new arbitrary and unfair restrictions, adopted since acquiring Continental, represent a giant step backward from their formerly progressive policy, which treated dogs individually, based on behavior.

Now, sadly, responsible owners of many breeds — including American Staffordshire terriers, pit bull terriers and several other breeds — are prohibited from flying with their beloved pets on United. The ban extends to dogs who simply look like a targeted breed.

This policy doesn’t only affect people traveling with the family dog. Best Friends and many other rescues routinely transport dogs to new adoptive homes via the airlines, and we were hoping that the United-Continental merger would result in breed-neutral policies being adopted by both airlines. But as it stands, many dogs helped by Best Friends Animal Society would be denied transportation to their new homes, thereby complicating their placement and slowing admission of other dogs to the Sanctuary and our shelter rescue programs.

The fact that the policy depends on visual identification of a dog’s breed only makes matters worse, and it is particularly harsh in the case of mixed-breed dogs. Recent studies by Dr. Victoria Voith and Dr. Julie Levy show that visual identification of a mixed-breed dog’s heritage is inaccurate 75 percent of the time when compared with DNA testing. So unless all canine passengers are DNA-tested, there is no way to accurately identify a dog’s breed(s) to determine whether a canine passenger should be on the embargoed list. With more than 20 breeds commonly mistaken for the dogs on United’s banned list, this arbitrary policy could result in a loss of lives, not to mention loss of business for United.

It is a very regressive move for a customer-oriented business, especially in light of the fact that state and municipal governments across the U.S. have repealed or are in the process of reconsidering archaic laws that ban dogs solely because of appearance.

Please contact United Airlines and urge them to repeal this unnecessary and, in many cases, life-threatening policy.



Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society


  • M QUIN1S

    My family and I usually fly through United Airlines but if they cross to go ahead with these policy then I will pay the extra to fly with another company.

    • M Quin1s


  • Simplifies my travel plans. With or without dogs, I will have nothing to do with United  Airlines.

  • pibblemum

    Just sent a letter too and also will not fly with them.  My vet said that she has never in her practice had to muzzle a pitbull but that she muzzles small breeds, shepherds, spaniels, etc. all the time.  This regulation is just plain silly – my temperament tested, Canine Good Citizen pitbull can’t fly, but the neighbor’s little fluffy dog that bit three of the neighborhood kids can!??

    • Res0gxej

      wake up people. pit bulls make headlines. And for good reason. They bite people and other dogs. Mine dog was attacked by a pitbull compleletly unprovoked. A pit bull that belonged to a family member. A pit bull that I know was raised with nothing but love. And I found out later a pit bull that had donne the exact same thing to other dogs. Not buying this crap that it is how they are raised.

      • Anonymous

        You could say the same for a lot of dogs.  All sorts of dogs bite.   It doesn’t matter if you don’t buy the crap.  It is the reality.  With millions of dogs bites will happen with all types of dogs.  The owner is responsible for making any dog safe and to be good at understanding dog behavior.

        • Res0gxej

          And do millions of dogs kill when they bite. Pit bulls do regularly when they bite. And they don’t have to be provoked. They don’t have to have a thermometer shoved up the backside or have someone come on their property or have someone threaten them. They just have to get the urge for who knows what reason to attack an innocent person or dog. So yes. Wake the hell up.

          • Lovefelines2003

            You’re very ignorant about pit bulls. They are in the news all the time because the media has chosen them to the “evil, dangerous dog” of the past few years.  Before that it was rotties, German Sheperds etc…..we don’t hear about all the other breeds who bite and attack in the news because the media chooses to ignore these stories.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make for a good headline.  I’ve washed dogs in shelters fo years and years and have never had anything but love, good behavior and kisses from pitties.  But I have been bitten by many other breeds.  It’s the individual dog.  Case closed.

          • Anonymous

            You make a good point.  It’s about the headlines.  Scare media is a problem.  I’m a vet, and I think that well-meaning people lean the other way and forget what inhumane people bred and continue to breed the pit bull to do.  We have stacked their genes against them.   Unprovoked attacks (what we consider unprovoked) SEEM to have a higher incidence in some breeds. However, this is still breed profiling, and not all pit bulls are a danger. A properly crated dog of any kind should be safe to transport. This increased incidence is a matter of degree and should not preclude them from being shipped.  Any dog can bite in unfamiliar circumstances.  This makes all dogs (and cats and some humans) a risk.  All animals require cautious and informed handling, not banning.

          • Luckynottobeyourneighbour

            poor man.

      • Babette’s owner

        You are ignorant. My pit bull is an angel. My beagle, on the other hand, had to be put down for mauling one too many people.

      • JDS

        It seems some animal bigotry dies as hard as does the human kind. Anecdotal crap has always been used to support one crackpot theory or another. Witness this fool.

      • Calentine

        I understand your attitude, but I have had a Collie that bit and a Keeshond that bit too.  And I met a sweet Pit that was used as a bate dog that was the sweetest dog I ever met.  Lots of dogs bite no matter what their breed or size.  It’s not fair to lump one breed as bad.  Personally, I don’t trust German Shepards!

    • Anonymous

      Well said.  Breed discrimination is not fair and accomplishes nothing.  Also, there are so many dogs that are mixed breeds how could anyone fairly judge any dog without doing DNA testing?  Also, dogs are individuals and should be treated as such.

  • Anonymous

    One more thing.  Also, apparently because the group of dogs are pit bulls and not other dogs that bite it is okay to kill them off and abuse them with bragging about shooting pit bulls or a good pit bull is a dead pit bull.  Like I said.  No one.  No one would ever go to the lengths to persecute a dog that bites (a lot of dogs bite by the way and/or kill) like some people do with the pit bulls.  That is all the more reason why they need to be protected from people that just don’t like them and think they have a right to get rid of them.  The focus should always have been on making any dog owner take dog ownership more seriously and learn dog behavior and if you do not make your dog safe you should be held accountable.  It sure isn’t the dog’s fault.

  • Shame on United Way………will not fly the unfriendly skies of United until this ban is lifted !

  • Anonymous

    Flying may not be the best thing for any animal on a commercial airline.  I think most people understand that.  But the continuous discrimination of certain breeds of dogs that partly is attributed to some of the biased media and people who don’t get the facts on dogs in general and fuel the hysteria about certain dogs is unfair.  There are so many responsible pit bull owners and owners of other dogs that never make the news.  That is what is so unfair.  I know that is life but it never fails that the responsible dog owners and innocent dogs continuously are paying for the irresponsible things other people do with their dogs.  I have never seen anything as bad as what is happening to a group of dogs called pit bulls.  It seems to me that because they are pit bulls and not another type of dog they are considered to be fair game for persecution.  Anything is acceptable when it comes to pit bulls.  Anyone can spread lies about supposed pit bull attacks or whatever because they are pit bulls.  Many of the stories about attacks by pit bulls don’t even end up being pit bulls and that is what is so unfair.  It is not right what is happening to these dogs.  No one would ever go to the lengths to persecute another breed or group of dogs that bite like some people do with the group of breeds called pit bulls.  These dogs are beautiful, amazing dogs in the right hands and deserve so much better along with their responsible owners. It is not right the unfair persecution of these dogs and their responsible owners.  That is why people fight for these dogs. They deserve so much better than what is happening to them in this country and worldwide.  The lies that are being spread about these dogs is unbelievable and totally unfair.  Many dogs bite and/or kill and to persecute any one dog or breed, etc. is just so unfair.  It has to stop.

  • Guest

    This ignores the bigger issue. Nobody should be checking pets in as baggage (and that is what you’re doing, unless you bring them into the main cabin). The conditions back there are inhumane. It’s loud and often cold, and your pet likely has no idea what is happening to him/her. This if if all goes well, which as you know it often does not. I used to work for an airline, and while I did my best to comfort these frightened, often air-sick animals, many in my position treated them like the rest of the baggage. Believe me, your pit bulls are better off.

  • Hnl4me

    Sorry to disagree with your feelings but as a former airline employee of 26 years, I agree with the ban.  When a passenger checked-in their best friend with me, I did everything I could to make the customer and pet feel welcome and secure.  However, I came across many pets that were absolutely scared to death and acted aggressively to anyone that came near their kennel.  You must understand that there are human beings transporting the pets to the baggage area and to the aircraft and have been bitten many times.  Think about the cost to the airline when an employee is injured on the job.  I would also like to add that when pet owners choose a pet to love, they are quite aware of the breed and the breeds short comings.  That being said, if you choose to bring a known agressive breed in to your home, then you should take full responsibility of what comes along with that breed.  I sincerely don’t think you are seeing the full picture here.  It’s not discrimination, it’s employee safety.  In closing, there are other airlines to use than just United!

    • guest

      shame on you for saying this. a known agressive breed? not all pit bulls or pit bull type dogs are agressive! I have 2 that have never bitten anyone nor would they. I have however been bitten by many small breed dogs but because they dont hurt as bad as a large breed dog we dont ban these small dogs. Think of the stress dogs are under being caged and then moved into an airplane. It can be stressful for people and dogs cant use words. I think you need to educate yourself before posting a comment on something you obviously need education on.

    • Morgan

      I do not think you understand the core issue with this. The problem here is that pit bull are NOT ‘known aggressive dogs’ as you said. You should educate yourself on the issue. Pit Bulls are not even a breed, they a body type. They have been used in dog fights- NOT because they are a ‘known aggressive breed’ but because their will to please is a lot stronger than most breeds. The NOT AKC registered Pit Bull was bred to be a nanny dog- that means protect a baby from rats and vermin from getting in the crib. Now, you tell me if thats a ‘known aggressive dog’. And it would seem to me that these canine racists at United should be more worried about the 225 dogs that are killed under their care a year for not properly heated/cooling the area where pets are stored. Employees should be safe and have rights- but banning Pit Bulls will do nothing for you. More people get bit by Chihuahuas every year than Pit Bulls. Open you’re eyes, and do your research… Disappointed. 

    • You’ve supposedly seen the dogs being scared out of their mind when being forced to fly, sadly though you obviously don’t understand that the biting and aggression is based on confusion, fear, and not knowing what is going on. Flying for an animal is a traumatic experience, and even though some of the dogs have flown multiple times it is still traumatic. But to claim that a breed specific ban is the best, is wrong, honestly can you say that it’s only the dogs that look like pit bulls that bite? It is disgusting how this country has turned on a breed of dog that we had as a national icon. Many have fought in wars beside our troops (over the last 150-200 years), stayed with the children on farms (or in homes) to watch out for their well being, the have become members of law enforcement to help protect our cities and boarders. But now a days these dogs are being destroyed for being protectors, for being the loved family dog this country once loved. They are being destroyed out of fear and media driven hysteria. But to people like you it doesn’t matter that this breed has become a fashion statement to punks, thugs, “gangstas”, drug addicts, careless owners who just want to look cool. Have you done your research to see what these dogs go through to make their POS owners money? The ones who refuse to fight are used as bait dogs, they are beaten, starved, set on fire, electrocuted, etc. They are over bred, and due to the over population of this breed, they are getting into irresponsible hands. People who do not pay attention to the behavior and mannerisms, they miss the signs of fear and insecurity. Some owners even encourage bad behavior in their dog, like stated stereotypes listed above. And to be honest with you, MOST PEOPLE DO NOT DO THE RESEARCH! You are naive to think that all owners of this group of dogs care enough to raise a happy and social dog, or even smart enough for that matter. They do not know how smart these dogs are, or how much exercise they need; they are a working dog, and only happy when they have expelled pent up energy. These dogs are only aggressive because of bad owners and the media has told you so. Employee safety is a BS excuse to cover up this act of BSL, if they want employees to be safe then ban ALL breeds.

    • Tracy

      How do you get bit when the dog is in a crate?!

  • Katbrown88

    I am afraid I would not be inclined to fly my pet on any airline days. There are alternatives. And the commercial companies do not show any interest in their safety. Unfortunately certain breeds are not welcome anywhere lately. So sad and ignorant. If you want to travel with your pet look at companies like PetAirways. It is no fun to fly anymore and I would never risk my pets life on the airlines now. Too many horror stories. They can’t even give their human passengers decent service. 

  • Bseely1111

    OK, so we now are boycotting United for dog profiling and American because of the tragedy of Jack the Cat. Southwest and a the rest will be happy to hear this!

    • Reilly

      As a pit bull owner, I was astounded to read about United’s policy, so I checked it out myself on their website.  The restricted breeds do not appear to be due to aggressive nature but due to possible respiratory stress for brachycephalic or snub-nosed breeds. Also listed are Shih Tzu, Pekinese and Pug. Mr. Castle, if what you reported is true then Pug and Pekinese owners had better stand up and be heard because your dog has now been targeted and banned for its aggressive behavior. This report, although accurate in that pit bulls cannot travel, appears to have been poorly researched,

      • Pit bulls ARE NOT brachycephalic or snub-nosed breeds. 

        • Reilly

           Good point, I didn’t think so either, but mine does tend to snort when he gets excited, like when he barks.  A good question for the vet!

          • Richard Selbig

            It just came to mind, Would 9/11 have happend if they had a Rotwiler, Pit Bull or any of those breeds on the plane. I know if I had my old Fox Hound on there She would have put any one that looked like a thret to me in their place real quick. I just do not get it.

  • Giovanna Watts

    I believe a boycott is called for! Lets all join together and fight ignorance and racism!

  • Geminidogstar06

    Apparently, many people will be flying the “friendly skies” with another airline! I personally, don’t feel that was a very wise business step to take on the airlines part. Lack of concern for buyers of tickets when the economy is down, does not help United’s fundage.Saying no to certain breeds is just bad business ethics and common sense.

  • Laura Rozler

    Recently I flew United to Volunteer at the Sanctuary – will never fly
    United again.  All flights had extremely horrible customer service. They were also not prepared w/ enough food and drink for all aboard.
    During my volunteer time I adopted a fur daughter for which I was happy to
    drive 5 hours to Newark, NJ to pick her up.  The majority of the service
    I received while waiting for my girl was less than stellar.  From what I
    understand Continental was amazing to work with, so I’m guessing it has
    to do with United and it’s employees – shame on them for bad service and fur baby profiling.  My next adoption I will be
    driving my new fur child home.  It may take me a week to get from Utah
    to New York but it would be well worth it to not have to be treated
    horribly and deal with the treatment I did while waiting for her flight
    to arrive.

  • Anniebode32

    Boycott United Airlines. They should be ashamed.

  • Anonymous

    Letter sent.  I guess they might want to talk to McDonalds since they are also the experts on dogs and what they are all like and know exactly what any dog will do at any time since all dogs act the same.  Definitely discriminatory and a shame.  

  • Riyo_x

    How is banning pit bulls from anything any different than racism?  It’s not.  Letter being sent.

  • Riyo_x

    How is banning pit bulls from anything any different than racism?  It’s not.  Letter being sent.

    • Lynne542

      Exactly! I always call people against pit bulls and other ‘bully’ breeds “Dog Racists.”

  • Kfoster9

    Ignorance at its best!

  • Boppills

    As an animal rescue volunteer who works with mostly American Bull Terriers, I find United Airline’s ban discriminatory, unethical and extremely ignorant.  Money talks, so I will be boycotting this airline and pass the news along to many of my colleagues and friends, who in turn, will also shun United Airlines.  Reverse your ridiculous and unfounded policy.

  • Erin

    Sending a letter now. This makes me so mad! If this policy had been in place three months ago, gem puppy Jet would have never found his way from Las Vegas to Burlington, Vermont, and our safe and loving home.

  • wishstar50

    Next step is profiling of humans.  They probably will get it as incorrectly as they do for dogs.

  • I just sent an email I hope they reverse this policy!! This is dog profiling!! I will NOT be flying United!!

  • Hscbikes

    This falls in line with my recent experience with United Airlines.  Their customer service is undeniably atrocious! 

    • Lynda

      Shame on you, United Airlines!

  • Sylvia Bongiovanni

    The solution is very simple here and that is to REFUSE flying with United Airlines.  United will suffer big time due to loss of revenue.  There are other airline carriers one can choose from.  Give United Airlines the boot  because it sure as hell deserves it!!!!!

  • Lovefelines2003

    Just sent an email to United Airlines.  Disgusting.  They are idiots for doing this and I hope they reverse their policy.  I am going to boycott them until they do.