Flying the Friendly Skies
Tips to help keep your pet safe during air travel.
As a pet owner, you want to bring your faithful companion everywhere with you and sometimes that includes traveling. When it comes to air travel it might be safer to leave your pets behind with a responsible pet sitter because air travel can be extremely stressful for some pets and in some cases can be responsible for their death or injury. It is always a good idea to check with your veterinarian first to see if your pet is healthy enough for the journey. Puppies, kittens, elderly animals and pets with compromised health could be at greater risk during air travel. Some people choose to adopt or purchase a pet from out of state which may involve flying. (It is important to note that most reputable breeders and animal shelters WILL NOT ship their pets without meeting the intended family first.) The first question you should always ask when considering air travel with a pet is, “Will my pet be safe?”
If it is absolutely necessary for your pets to travel with you on a plane, you should follow these guidelines recommended by the HSUS in, “Traveling Tips for Pets on Planes, Trains, or Ships” from January 4, 2010.
1. Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
2. Always travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded into the cargo hold.
3. When you board the plane, notify the captain and at least one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. If the captain knows that pets are on board, he or she may take special precautions.
4. Don't ever ship brachycephalic animals such as Pekingese, Bulldogs, or Persian cats in the cargo holds. These breeds have short nasal passages that leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Recent statistics show that approximately half of the deaths recorded in the past five years have been these types of breeds.
5. If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
6. Fit your pet with a collar that can't get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar—a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the destination address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
7. Affix a travel label to the carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
8. Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier's door, holes, and other crevices.
9. Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his or her stress during travel.
10. Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel. Tranquilizers make it more difficult for pet’s body heat to self-regulate and can also make it more difficult for your pet to breathe properly.
11. Do not feed your pet for four to six hours prior to air travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet's kennel. A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.
12. Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
13. Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
14. When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.
Some airlines will allow pets below a specific size to travel in their crates in the main passenger compartments. Depending on the airline, pets weighing more than 15 or 20 pounds must be checked as baggage or sent as cargo. Most airlines have a 100 pound weight limit for pets and carriers. It is a good idea to have your pet checked by a veterinarian after traveling on a plane in case of any complications that might have been caused by air traveling.
Some airlines now refuse to allow pets to be checked as baggage because of extreme and dangerous temperatures of the plane’s cargo area. On the major airlines, the cargo section is supposed to be fully pressurized and properly heated, but there have been instances of deaths. Some airlines will only allow your pets on the planes during temperate seasons. Each airline has its own regulations, so it is important to contact the airline yourself for the most current information. Federal rules now require airlines to release the number of animals killed or injured on their flights to the public. This information is listed on the Department of Transportation Consumer Report page of their website, http://airconsumer.ost.dog.gov/reports/index.htm.
Traveling internationally with pets can be challenging when it comes to quarantine requirements and importation regulations. You will need to plan for your trip months in advance. It is important to find out the basic requirements of the country you are traveling to. Each country has different regulations with specific vaccinations or veterinary health certificates. Contact the embassy or consulate in the country of your destination. There is a list of Foreign Consular Offices in the United States on the Department of State’s website, http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco/ .
A website that offers great information regarding travel with your pets is, http://www.pettravelcenter.com/
Please remember that all airlines require advance reservations and follow strict rules when it comes to flying with pets, so give yourself enough time to have everything in order for a safe journey for your pet.