These days, more pet owners than ever are opting to travel with their furry companions. With the coming holiday travel season, it’s a good time to consider expert advice to consider whether four-legged loved ones should fly at all.
Can some animals travel safely, either in the cabin or the belly of an aircraft? Yes, but the American Humane Association advises: “As a general rule, puppies and kittens, sick animals, animals in heat and frail or pregnant animals should not travel by air.” Furthermore, the Humane Society of the United States warns since air travel is particularly dangerous for animals with ‘pushed-in’ faces, such as bulldogs; some airlines will not accept them.
During holiday season, some regions of the United States will be too cold for pet travel, while other regions will be too hot, making the booking process quite difficult. Minimum and maximum temperature guidelines apply, and they also apply to connecting cities along the way.
Each airline has its own rules on which animals it will and will not carry, specific regulations for cabin and belly travel and policies on containers.
How to fly with your dog
There are a few key steps you’ll need to take:
The first step always is checking with your veterinarian to see if your pet is healthy enough to fly.
Ideally, you’ll want to book a “nonstop flight,” though this may not be possible in many cases. It is also important to know if all legs of an itinerary will be operated by the same carrier or a codeshare partner.
Find out whether your desired airline allows animals in the cabin. If cargo is the only option, use judgment to assess whether your pet is equipped to handle being alone inside the baggage compartment for hours at a time.
Plan on booking your pet separately by phone after you’ve already reserved your own seat on the plane. Every airline has a slightly different policy around this, but in general, the criteria are the same. On March 1, Delta rolled out changes to its pet travel policies. For the first time, the airline has decided to stop accepting animals as checked luggage. Now, anyone looking to travel with their dog or cat, will need to bring their pet aboard the main cabin in an approved carrier or they’ll have to buy a separate plane ticket, possibly for a different flight, via Delta Cargo.
In general, pet travel is subject to availability, so book well ahead, overall if you are flying on holidays and weekends, when you might run into other owners trying to catch the same flight.
Though many airlines welcome pets on international flights, it’s imperative to check the individual country’s vaccination laws before booking your trip. Things have gotten better, but never assume your dog or cat will be able to pass through foreign customs unchecked.
You’ll need to purchase a well-ventilated crate with a secure latch. Be sure the crate has your name and address on it, along with the words “LIVE ANIMAL” clearly marked on the side, with arrows pointing up, and that the bottom is leak-proof. Experts recommend doing practice runs before the actual trip.
Plan on withholding the pet’s food about six hours before flying. If they get nervous around flying, this will help avoid vomiting or diarrhea. (It’s a young pet, or a small breed, though, this isn’t recommended.)
In the airport, once you’ve checked in, just like with any other trip, you’ll have to pass through security with your pet. Show up at the TSA checkpoint with your dog in the crate. Take the animal out of the crate (have a leash handy) so the crate can pass through the X-ray tunnel, and then walk or carry your pet through the metal detector.
Driving with your dog
Driving is an easy way of including your pet in your travel plans, but don’t assume your pet feels the same way about road trips as you do.
- Pack water.
- Make sure you have a container in the car that your dog can drink out of and poop bags.
- Pack an extra leash, in case it breaks.
- Have treats handy in case you need to entice your wandering friend back to the vehicle.
- Never go more than three or four hours without stopping to let your dog pee.
To ride on a train with your dog
Amtrak now allows small dogs to travel with their owners on certain routes. The total weight of the dog (or cat) inside the carrier must be less than 20 pounds, and there is a $25 fee.
You can get more information from these sites:
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Air Travel Tips
- The Humane Society: Travel Safely
- The American Veterinary Medical Association: Traveling with Your Pet
- S. Department of Transportation: Transporting Live Animals
- For those traveling with pets in foreign countries there are specific requirements, detailed by the S. Department of Agriculture.
Most of these organizations also provide advice for those who travel by alternate modes, such as car, bus, train and ship.