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Travels with Your Pet by Plane

Travels with Your Pet by Plane
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What if your summer vacation calls for plane travel? How can you help make sure the skies your dog, Fluffy or cat, Isis, fly are friendly and safe? Here’s some tips for traveling by plane with your pets

Both the Humane Society and the ASPCA have one word of advice about traveling by air with your pet: Don’t. Unless absolutely necessary, they don’t recommend that you take your best friend along with you. It is too stressful and dangerous, but, if you must, read on.

Your small pet (in his/her carrier) must fit under the seat in front of you, though domestic airlines can limit the number of pets they allow in the cabin on any given flight, so make sure you call ahead. International airlines like British Air, Aer Lingus, and Japan Air don’t let pets in the cabin at any time. Check for a list of airlines’ pet policies, and be sure to check your airline’s website for any last-minute regulation changes.

If your pet has to be checked as “accompanied baggage” (if you are going to be on the same place) or shipped as “cargo” (if you are not), think long and hard about taking your pet along. Horror stories have recently been in the news about pets dying or going missing from cargo holds. Full disclosure: I did pay extra for VIP shipment of my Dalmatian puppy, but had to sign a million waivers absolving the airlines from any responsibility and it was a very nerve-wracking day until she arrived.

Make sure that all your pets shots are current (take along printed copies of their records) and ask your vet for a “Health Certificate” at least 10 days in advance of the trip (you’ll need this to make an airline reservation.) If you are traveling overseas, check with the embassy or consulate of the county to which you are traveling about quarantine procedures for live animals differ country to country. (If you are traveling to Australia for example, all animals must undergo a 30-day quarantine.)

Get a couple of slip-on collar tags that attach to the collar itself, not dangle from it (a strangulation hazard.) Put your cell number, email address and destination information on one and the rabies certificate and immunization numbers on the other. Use a breakaway collar for cats and never put a choke collar on a traveling dog.

Get your pet micro-chipped and carry the number with you. Any vet can then trace your lost pet to you.

Buy a USDA-approved shipping crate big enough for your pet to turn around and lie down in and get your pet used to being in it before the trip. Put their favorite blanket and some towels or shredded newspapers (for inevitable accidents) inside.

In big letters and indelible marker, write “Live Animal” on the sides and top of the crate with directional arrows showing which way is up. On the top of the crate, write your name, address, phone number and destination information and attach a photo of your pet. (Carry the same one with you.) Don’t let your pet out of the crate at the airport.

Book a direct flight. The less handling of your pet by airline personnel, the better (look at how they handle us humans and our luggage.) Try not to ship an animal during the hottest or coldest months of the year. The holds of planes are not climate-controlled, and there is always the risk of your pet’s crate being left on the tarmac. Avoid busy holiday or weekend travel times.

Allow lots of extra time at the airport and be prepared to pay. Fees vary by airline. They may also charge “Terminal handling charges, customs clearance fees, veterinarian service, and/or kennel storage fees.”

Make sure that the crate is closed tightly (but not locked) during the trip. Freeze a small bowl of water for the inside of the crate so it doesn’t spill during takeoff and will melt during the flight for thirsty pets. Tape a cloth pouch (plastic poses as much of a threat to animals as it does to babies) of dried food on the outside so airline staff can feed the animal during a long-flight or unforeseen layover.

Feed your dog or cat four hours before travel (to avoid nausea in flight) and don’t tranquilize your pet or use a muzzle as it might make breathing too difficult.

Tell every member of the airline staff you meet that you have a pet in cargo traveling, so they can take it into consideration if anything out of the ordinary happening. During long delays, you have a right to insist that they check on your pet—even if it means taking the animal out of the cargo hold.



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