Simon, expected to grow into the world’s longest rabbit just a few short months ago, was found dead after a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago in April. It was very sad and weird. Now his owners filed a lawsuit against United on Wednesday, alleging that the company cremated the rabbit to destroy evidence about how he died.
After breeder (and former Playboy model) Annette Edwards said the poor bunny was cleared by a veterinarian as being in perfectly good health before a flight to meet his new celebrity owners, reports were that Simon was found dead. United later told the Associated Press that the rabbit was alive upon landing, but died in a pet holding facility at the airport.
United claimed in April that it was reviewing Simon’s mysterious death. But the review allegedly didn’t get very far, as USA Today reports that Simon’s owners called for an independent investigation in May.
Then, the lawsuit alleges, United cremated him. The lawsuit alleges that the airline did so in order to get rid of evidence about what killed Simon, and it’s surprising in the first place that the company—rather than the owners—would have the ability to decide what to do with his remains.
USA Today reports that attorneys representing Simon’s owners think the death represents a larger issue within United’s methods of transporting animals. More than one-third of all animal airline deaths in the last five years have happened on United flights, which represented 53 of 136 deaths as of April. Simon wasn’t included in that tally at the time.
That’s a small percentage of the total animals transported by United, which was 109,149 in the year 2016 alone. There were about 2.1 incidents of injury or death per 10,000 animals on the airline that year, but that doesn’t make it any easier—or less fishy, in this case—for owners to deal with.
At the time of Simon’s death, United said the “safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel ... is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team,” but the alleged actions that took place afterward don’t look great on the company. USA Today reports that United didn’t immediately respond for comment, but Jalopnik has reached out as well and will update if we hear back.
Here’s what the attorneys say about Simon’s death, from USA Today:
“The facts show a pattern of wrongful treatment of pets by United Airlines and a cover-up by United regarding the death of Simon,” said Guy Cook, a Des Moines attorney representing the ownership group.
Simon was purchased in April on behalf of Mark Oman, Steve Bruere and Duke Reichardt, three Iowa businessmen who hoped to show the rabbit at the Iowa State Fair and raise money for its Blue Ribbon Foundation.
The lawsuit seeks to recoup the costs of purchasing and transporting the rabbit from England, as well as punitive damages to punish the airline for its conduct.
Here’s hoping that the next time one of his kids makes the news, it’s for something slightly happier than this.
Update, July 27 at 11:50 a.m. ET: United responded to Jalopnik, saying the following: “We were saddened by Simon’s death in April. We have received this complaint and are currently reviewing it.”