The intended owners of the giant rabbit found dead after an international United Airlines flight are seeking answers and compensation in the animal’s death.
An attorney for the Simon Investment Group in Iowa – who purchased the 3-foot giant continental rabbit named Simon to show and raise money for the Iowa State Fair – sent a letter of demands to the airline’s general council, CEO and risk management team, calling their actions “grossly negligent.”
“The importance of Simon’s death goes beyond the life of a single rabbit, it reflects an attitude of United Airlines that lacks basic decency and respect for the people and the property it is hired to serve,” wrote attorney Guy R. Cook in the letter, which he provided to PEOPLE.
Simon’s owners are demanding all records of United’s investigation into the rabbit’s death, as well as an independent query into the airline’s animal transport policies. Additionally, the group is seeking damages covering the cost of Simon, his shipping expenses as well as any future revenue he would have generated.
The animal was found dead in April after traveling on United flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Cook claims in his letter that the airline cremated the rabbit’s remains without permission from Simon’s breeder or owners after finding Simon dead during a layover.
The letter also mentions reports that a United employee alleged Simon was locked in a freezer for 16 hours by the airline.
In response, a United spokesperson tells PEOPLE in a statement, “We have received the letter from the attorneys in Iowa and are reviewing.”
“Our United team takes its responsibilities in transporting pets seriously, and is saddened by Simon’s death,” the statement continued. “However, the assertion that Simon died in a freezer is false. He was cared for the United PetSafe kennel facility which is kept at room temperature (on average 70°F).”
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“He arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport in apparent good condition at 10:25 am (local time). He was seen by a representative of the kennel facility moving about within his crate about 11:00am. Shortly thereafter, a kennel representative noticed Simon was motionless and that he passed away.”
Additionally, United confirmed that they had reached a resolution with Simon’s U.K.-based breeder, Annette Edwards. The details of the resolution were undisclosed.
Simon was only 10-months old at the time of his death. As the son of the world’s largest rabbit, Darius, Simon was expected to eventually surpass him in size.