When a family boarded a United Airlines plane Monday with their beloved French bulldog, Kokito, they had no idea the flight would end in heartbreak.

A flight attendant insisted that the dog's carrier be moved into the overhead bin at takeoff -- even though the crate was TSA-approved, and the family had followed all airline rules. When the plane landed, Kokito was dead. And now, the family is in mourning over a tragedy that never should have happened.

This is hardly the first time a cherished pet has died in-flight. Last year, 24 animals died on U.S. flights (18 of them on United). Another 15 were injured, and one was simply lost. This does not count animals who died shortly after landing.

It's up to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate airlines and ensure the safety of all passengers -- human and animal. Yet the FAA seemingly considers animals as little more than luggage, saying, "we consider your pet container to be carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry on baggage rules."

Animals are not luggage. They are feeling, breathing, sentient beings who deserve to be treated as such.

The airline system must no longer dismiss animals as objects, and must let families fly with their beloved dogs, cats, rabbits and other companion animals without fear.

Sign this petition to urge United to immediately create a strong, effective policy to protect animals on board, and for the FAA to do its job and work to ensure the safety of animals on all U.S. airlines  -- so that no more dogs like Kokito must die.

UPDATE: The day after United apologized for this needless death, the airline accidentally flew a family's German shepherd to Japan instead of Kansas. It is clear that United must act immediately to change their policies and protect all animals on board.

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