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Travel with Your Pet

Safety Tips for Air Travel with Your Pet

Make sure to carry a photo of your pet with you while traveling by air, just in case your pet is lost.

If you must transport your pet by air, your first decision is whether you can take him or her on board with you, which is by far the best option. If your pet is a cat or small dog, most airlines will allow you to take the animal on board for an additional fee. To find out about this option, call the airline. Most airlines provide information about transporting pets with them.

When you contact the airline, find answers to these questions:

Does the airline allow you to take your pet on board with you?

  • If that option isn't available to you, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet as cargo?

  • Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?

  • Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers, which may be more comfortable for your pet, but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.

If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips:

  • Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Do not ship pug-nosed dogs or cats such as Pekingese, Chow Chows, and Persians in the cargo hold. These breeds have short nasal passages that leave them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke in cargo holds.

  • 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.

  • Fit your pet with 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 address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.

  • 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.

  • Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier's door, holes, and other crevices.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Do not hesitate to complain if you witness the mishandling of an animal—either yours or someone else's—at any airport. For information about air travel for pets, visit the USDA's website.

If you have a bad experience when shipping your animal by air, contact the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the airline involved.

TRAVEL CARRIER TIPS
  • Your pet's carrier should be durable and smooth-edged with opaque sides, a grille door, and several ventilation holes on each of the four sides. Choose a carrier with a secure door and door latch. If you are traveling by air, your carrier should have food and water dishes.

  • Pet carriers may be purchased from pet-supply stores or bought directly from domestic airlines. Select a carrier that has enough room to permit your animal to sit and lie down but is not large enough to allow your pet to be tossed about during travel. You can make the carrier more comfortable by lining the interior with shredded newspaper or a towel.

  • It is wise to acclimate your pet to the carrier in the months or weeks preceding your trip. Permit your pet to explore the carrier. Place your pet's food dish inside the carrier and confine him or her to the carrier for brief periods.

Check out Traveldog.com for a list of pet-friendly accomodations.

(Source: Humane Society of United States)

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