Newsletter: Sept 2012
Air Travel with your pet
Traveling by Airplane with your pet?
Planning and preparation help make it fun and safe for the whole family.
A few general tips apply when traveling by plane with animals.
Regulations state that dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. Current Health and rabies vaccines certificates will be required. The pet must be examined by a veterinarian and the Health Certificate issued within 10 days of the flight. During this exam, any concerns about the pet’s health, diet, parasite control, and fitness for travel will be addressed. The pet can be brought up to date with its vaccinations. Older pets should have a full blood work-up. Pets should wear collars with complete identification and a license and rabies tag. Microchipping is advisable and also required for certain destinations.
Some foreign countries have specific requirements concerning rabies vaccination, testing, flea & tick control, and veterinary certification. Certification by a veterinarian accredited by the Department of Agriculture may be required in addition to a Health Certificate. Contact the consulate of the destination country preferably at least several weeks before the anticipated travel. Likewise for travel to Hawai’i, where arriving dogs must be quarantined in addition to having had all their shots.
Travelers should contact the airline in advance to check regulations and services to make reservations. At this time, determine whether your pet can accompany you in the cabin, or whether it will have to go below with the cargo. The cargo holds are typically pressurized, but not temperature controlled. Any pet small enough to fit should travel with you in the cabin, or else book a different flight. The airline will request that only well-behaved dogs ride in the cabin – no constant barkers or dogs that smell offensively. They will not be allowed out of the crate. Some airlines do not allow cabin travel on overseas flights.
The ASPCA warns of the danger of flying dogs in the cargo hold: they may overheat in the summer, or freeze in winter, especially if the plane is delayed on the runway for a long time. Suffocation i.e. fumes from other cargo like dry ice, mishandling, or getting loose & lost are other dangers associated with the cargo hold. If unavoidable, a direct midweek flight or one with minimum stops is strongly advised. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends during the summer, traveling with your pet in the evening or early morning. Short snouted dogs, such as boxers and English bulldogs, are particularly sensitive to heat. Early morning or late evening flights should be selected for them.
Some airlines will not ship dogs between May 15- September 15, when temperatures can be extreme, or if temperatures drop below 45 degrees, or exceed 85 at the destination. More stringent restrictions may be applied to short- nosed breeds such as pugs, boxers, bull dogs & shih-tzus. Some airlines may also embargo “scary” dogs such as adult Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans.
Airlines maintain that they follow all the requirements of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, and that out of approximately 500,000 animals flown each year, 99% arrive without incident, with the remainder mostly being not allowed to fly.
An appropriate travel crate is essential. The proper cage, available from most airlines or pet shops, should have the following features:
- Large enough to let the animal stand up turn around and lay down.
- Strong, free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips.
- Leak-proof bottom covered with plenty of absorbent material or towels.
- Ventilation on opposite sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked air flow.
- It must fasten securely but do not lock it.
- Label “LIVE ANIMALS” with arrows indicating upright position, and the owners name, address, and phone number.
- Freeze water in a bowl so it will not spill during loading but will soon melt for drinking.
- For cabin travel, the carrier must be big enough for your pet to stand in, but must fit under the seat in front of you. A maximum size of 23 x 14 x 9 inches would be appropriate for a 20lb dog or cat.
On the day of travel, the pet should be exercised, & placed in the crate by the owner. Don’t forget to pack some favorite toys, bowl, leash and regular diet.
Do not tranquilize your dog or cat for the flight. This can interfere with breathing and with thermoregulation and is associated with an increased mortality.
Airlines do not allow pets to be checked in at curbside, and advise allowing extra time for check-in. Homeland Security will also insist on removing your pet from its crate so that the crate can be inspected.
Be a pest! Tell every airline employee you meet how concerned you are about your pet, especially dogs travelling in cargo. Ask to be able to watch your dog being loaded onboard. Ask that if there are extended layovers or delays, that your dog be taken off the plane or tarmac.
Finally, owners should consider whether the pet is comfortable with traveling. Some animals do not function well in unfamiliar surroundings, and an unhappy pet can make a trip miserable for everyone. Some ill or physically impaired dogs and cats cannot withstand the rigors of travel. If this is the case, veterinarians advise pet owners to leave pets with a friend or relative or at a clean, well-run boarding kennel