United Airlines reputation for mishandling dogs is unfair, according to a Washington Post study. In fact, it appears more dogs die on United flights because, perversely, the airline is a better— and often the only — choice for humans’ best friend.

Diving into Department of Transportation data, the newspaper found that though the hard numbers seem to damn the airline — 75% of dog deaths on 2017 occurred on United — much of that is because the airline is the only one that will agree to transport dogs that are prone to respiratory issues.

Among all US carriers, only United will ship snub-nosed dogs (under restrictions and with warnings that certain animals are more prone to travel-related health problems). American and Delta have both forbidden short-nosed dogs for years; other airlines, including JetBlue, Spirit and Southwest, don’t transport animals at all.

That led to a disproportionate number of animal deaths aboard United flights — 40 percent of the animal deaths on United from 2015 to 2017 involved short-nosed breeds such as bulldogs, Shih tzus, Boston terriers and boxers. The No. 1 canine victim of air travel on all airlines in that period, in fact, was the American Bully, a relatively new breed of bulldog-style animal derived from bull terriers and pit bulls.

“We’ve been saying for some time that when you look at those numbers, the overwhelming numbers of those passing away while in our care were due to preexisting conditions or natural causes or something beyond our control,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said in a phone interview. “But we also understand that anytime it happens it’s a tragedy, and we’re working to prevent that from happening again.”

The Washington Post findings don’t necessarily explain some of United’s more cringeworthy animal-related incidents, such as the French bulldog that died while stuffed into an overhead bin, or the German shepherd from Kansas that took an unexpected trip to Japan, but for now United has mostly stopped shipping animals while it conducts a months-long review of the program.

“We’re doing a top-to-bottom review of the service,” Hobart said. “We want to do what’s in the best interest of our customers and the comfort and safety of the animals that we fly.”

Featured image by JodiJacobson/Getty Images

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
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