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A Giant Rabbit Died On A United Flight To O'Hare. Here's What The Airline Says.

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 26, 2017 4:33PM

Just in case you needed more evidence that managing public relations for United Airlines must be the most thankless job in the world, a giant rabbit—one of the the largest in the world—has mysteriously died on a flight en route from London's Heathrow to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The late three-foot-long, 10-month-old beast of a rabbit, known to the world as Simon, reportedly died sometime before the Boeing 767 landed at O'Hare. Simon's breeder, Annette Edwards, told the AP that the continental giant rabbit—which was expected to become the world's largest, according to Edwards—had just cleared a checkup with the vet a mere three hours before the plane took off. When the plane landed, big Simon was discovered dead in the plane's cargo hold, according to the BBC. Although United says the rabbit died sometime after arrival, after it was taken to an on-site kennel facility.

Edwards told the Sun that she was flying Simon over to the States to be sold to a new "celebrity" owner.

“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before. The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset, Edwards told the Sun.

United—which should probably just go ahead and affix "embattled" to the front of the company name—said the following in a statement:

"We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team."

United Airlines also told Chicagoist that Simon was taken to a PetSafe kennel facility at the airline's cargo warehouse upon arrival. There, the rabbit initially "showed no signs of distress." Simon at first appeared to be sleeping, but then not long after, he appeared to be motionless and was determined to have died, United said.

United—which has pet travel tips on its site here—is conducting a review of the incident. They also offered to have a postmortem exam performed on Simon by a third party, but Edwards declined, United told Chicagoist.

Simon was also not characterized as "disruptive and belligerent"—which is reassuring.

While the cause of death remains unknown, it should be noted that rabbits are apparently known by vets to not handle stress particularly well. "Rabbits are prone to dying unexpectedly under situations with high stress, and being in the cargo hold of a plane would certainly be considered stressful," said Dr. Sarah LaMere, a veterinarian, according to Snopes.

In the event that you've been living in a cave with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears (to channel The Simpsons), United saw its stocks plummet and PR perception crater after Dr. David Dao was dragged down the aisle from a United flight at O'Hare on April 9. The Kentucky doctor refused to give up his seat on the fully booked flight to make room for airline staff. Dao suffered a concussion and broken nose and lost two front teeth, according to his lawyer. A lawsuit in that incident is likely imminent.

As for continental giant rabbits in general, they apparently have a kind streak despite their ridiculous size. According to Pets4Homes, via the New York Times:

"They can grow to be huge - more than 15lbs in some cases and should be looked upon much like a pet dog. They aren’t keen on being picked up and so aren’t the best breed to keep if you have children who might want to carry them and have a cuddle. They will be more than happy to be petted and stroked however, and as they are such gentle, inquisitive creatures they do make fantastic pets."

You can check out a 2012 Today Show segment on Darius—Simon's pop, who was certified by Guinness as the world's largest rabbit—featuring Edwards below: