Traveling With Pets - What You Need To Know
If you can't bear leaving Fluffy or Fido at home while
you travel, you're not alone. Each year, millions of pet owners
bring their furry family members with them on vacation. But before
you put your pet in the car or on the plane, you should understand
some important guidelines.
transporting pets by car is an extremely common practice these days,
many pet owners often neglect to keep their animals safely
restrained in their automobiles. Each year, there are numerous
reports of animals causing accidents by distracting their owners
while driving. One notorious example made headlines last year when
horror author Stephen King was struck
and nearly killed by a driver of a van who was distracted by his
So how can you transport your pet in a way that's safe
and comfortable for both you and your pet? Veterinarians and AAA
recommend that you use a pet kennel to transport your pet. These
kennels should be secured by a seatbelt or other means to keep the
kennel from shifting..
AAA has published a great book called
Traveling With Your Pet. The book includes detailed
information on traveling by car, preparing for the trip, selecting a
travel kennel, and many other great tips. This book can be purchased
at any AAA office or online bookstores such as Amazon.
Last year, over two million pets and other live
animals were transported by air. While most animals travel in cargo
bins, some of themusually small dogs, cats and other little
creatures (see below)are permitted to ride in the cabin with their
owners (for a fee). On international flights, however, pets are not
allowed in the cabin. Larger animals, as well as international
animal shipments, can be shipped (also for a fee) in the forward
cargo bins, which are climate-controlled.
So what kind of
pets do the airlines allow in the cabin?
While most animals arrive to their
destination happy and healthy, this is not always the case.
- American allows cats, dogs, and birds. The number of animals
varies by aircraft and class of service.
- Continental allows cats, dogs, birds, rabbits and pot-bellied
pigs. The number of animals is limited to three per cabin
- Delta allows cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets and
guinea pigs and is limited to three per cabin.
- Northwest allows only cats and dogs and the limit is four per
- TWA allows cats, dogs, and birds. Their limit is four animals
- US Airways allows cats, dogs, and birds. Their limit is two
animals per cabin.
- United allows cats, dogs, and birds. Their limits vary by
On a recent United
flight, Dakota, a 10-year-old Basenji, didn’t experience the
friendly skies. Unfortunately for Dakota, he was loaded into the
wrong cargo bin on a flight from Washington, D.C. to San Jose.
Thankfully, United’s dispatchers caught the error and notified the
pilots, who then made an unscheduled landing in Denver to try and
save Dakota. He ended up being one lucky dog; he probably would have
died if the flight had continued on to San Jose. Shivering from the
experience, Dakota was carried by his owner into the cabin and flew
the rest of the flight bundled in blankets. He even got to watch a
movieappropriate for the occasiontitled My Dog Skip!
can see, there is a risk in shipping your pets, especially during
the summer months. The past two years most airlines have been
limiting, and even placing embargoes on, pet travel in cargo holds.
The time animals sometimes spend in the cargo hold along with
checked baggage before takeoff or after landing can lead to serious
injuries or death, particularly if flights are delayed. Airlines
have stated they will not accept live animals as checked baggage if
temperatures on a trip rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Airlines currently with embargoes:
of this writing, Northwest and US Airways do not have embargoes but decide on a case-by-case basis
whether or not to ship animals. Both airlines will determine if the
weather temperatures are in acceptable ranges at the time of
check-in. If your pet cannot be accommodated due to temperature
limitations, both airlines will work with you to arrange alternate
dates for your pet to travel.
If you absolutely must ship
your pet and cannot find an airline to do so, you can contact your
veterinarian for referrals to local commercial shippers and animal
breeders that can safely transport your pet.
If you are going to take your pet on a
flight, reserve a space for it well in advance of your trip. Try to
schedule a non-stop flight and avoid connections through airports
with heavy traffic (if at all possible). Also avoid shipping your
pet on mid-day flights during the summer and morning and evening
flights during the winter. At any point during your trip, if weather
conditions should subject your pet to extreme temperatures (high or
low), make sure additional precautions are taken to ensure the
Once on the plane, ask a flight attendant or
pilot if it's possible to check to make sure that your pet is safely
onboard the aircraft (most flight crewmembers are happy to
Guidelines To Follow
Here are some
useful guidelines to follow when shipping your pets:
- If your pet is in heat, pregnant, under eight weeks old, or
elderly, do not subject it to air travel.
- Pug-nose dogs and cats should never travel as cargo. Even
passenger cabin air can inhibit their breathing due to the
structure of their faces. Most airlines will not ship pug-nosed
dogs if the temperature reaches above 70 degrees.
- Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and must have
been weaned for
at least five days.
- Make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian for a
check-up, and make sure all vaccinations are up to date. Obtain a
health certificate from your vet no earlier than 10 days before
departure. Your pet cannot travel without this documentation.
- You should feed and offer water to your pet four hours before
delivery to the airline.
- If puppies and kittens less than 16 weeks of age are in
transit more than 12 hours, food and water must be provided. Older
animals must have food at least every 24 hours and water at least
every 12 hours. Written instructions for food and water must
accompany all animals shipped regardless of their scheduled time
- Animals may not be exposed to temperatures less than 45
degrees unless a certificate signed by a veterinarian stating that
they are acclimated to lower temperatures accompanies them.
- Exercise your pet before putting him or her in the
Most airlines have a
limit on the number of pets allowed per cabin, so be sure to inform
the airline when you make your reservation. Also, ask for the
allowable dimensions of your pet's carrier. Usually a 16" x 21"x 8"
carrier works best for the cabin. Out of respect for fellow
passengers, let the person sitting next to you know that you have a
pet with you. He or she may be allergic and may want to switch seats
with someone else.
In the aircraft cabin:
Dakota the dog was able to travel in the cabin without
a kennel carrier. It ended up being the Captain who insisted the dog
be allowed in the cabin after the incident. I applaud this Captain’s
decision, as it was the humanitarian thing to do; however, it did
violate a federal air regulation. More than likely, United will be
fined for the incident of mishandling the dog and then allowing him
to travel without a kennel in the cabin.
- Make sure the carrier is big enough to insure comfort for your
- Line the bottom of the carrier with a towel to absorb any
- Bring food and water for your pet.
- If you can, try to exercise your pet before putting him or her
in the carrier.
- For your pet's safety and the safety of other passengers, make
sure that the carrier is secure under the seat in front of you and
do not take your pet out of the carrier. This is an FAA
In the Cargo
If you are shipping your pet in the cargo hold,
you"ll need to purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate that is large
enough for your pet to stand, sit, and change position in
comfortably. You can purchase crates from many pet supply stores and
Be sure to write the words live animal in letters
at least one inch tall on the top
of the crate and on each side.
Draw arrows to prominently show the upright position of the crate.
It is essential that you write down the name, address and telephone
number of the destination point of your pet, whether you are
traveling with your pet or not. Be sure to secure this information
to the top of the crate.
Line the crate bottom with some
type of bedding (i.e. shredded paper or towels) to absorb accidents.
The crate must have two dishesone for food and one for
inside, and they must be easily accessible to
airline personnel. Freeze the water you provide for your pet so that
it will not fall out during loading, but will melt by the time the
animal is thirsty. Do not lock the door of the crate. Make sure it
is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can
open it in case of emergency. Get your pet accustomed to the crate
before the day of departure. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar
and an identification tag. Pets flying cargo should not wear collars
and tags that can get hooked on metal grates (breakaway collars are
best for cats). For trips longer than 12 hours, attach a plastic bag
containing dry food and feeding instructions for airline personnel
to the top of the crate. Tranquilization is not
With some proper planning and just knowing the
ropes, you can minimize your pet's stress when he/she travels.
Related Sites Of Interest:
Department of Transportation
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