Traveling by Air with Your Pet
Many pet owners can’t bear the thought of leaving their pet behind when traveling, even when they travel via air. If you are planning a trip by plane and your pet is going to accompany you, taking necessary precautions beforehand is important to making the trip a healthy and safe one for your pet.
Where will Your Pet Ride?
Historically, pets have been “checked” as luggage when flying by air. This means that the pet would ride in the baggage hold or cargo hold of the plane. The cargo hold may not be a safe spot, however, as it is not always shielded against severe cold or heat that often occurs during flight. A pet can be exposed to extreme temperatures in the cargo hold, which is particularly disconcerting if the pet is left there for a long period of time, or if a flight is delayed. To make matters worse, there is no way for you to check on, monitor, or render aid to your pet if it becomes ill or uncomfortable during its time in the cargo hold. Smaller pets can be carried on the plane, but only if you notify the airline well in advance, as airlines are limited by the number of pets that can fly per flight or per cabin. Your pet and its carryon container, such as a “Pet Taxi”, cannot weigh (combined) more than forty pounds with most airlines. You must also be able to stow the container and the pet beneath your seat during the flight.
Your pet carrier is an important part of your safety plan when it comes to traveling with your pet. Be sure to purchase one that has hard sides if your pet will be riding in the cargo bay. For pets that are being carried on the plane, you can choose a soft sided carrier if you wish. Either type of carrier should be well-vented on two opposing sides. The carrier must be big enough for the pet to stand up in, and the pet should be able to turn around fully within the carrier, and to lie down in comfort. The carrier should be leak proof and have lots of absorbent material on the bottom. The pet carrier should be marked with the words “LIVE ANIMAL” and must have visible arrows that show the upright position of the carrier. And last of all, mark your carrier with your name, address, and phone number.
Know Your Airline’s Rules
All airlines have their own set of rules that govern shipping pets, whether you plan to check the pet as luggage or you wish to carry it on the plane with you. Discuss the policies of the airline with the airline prior to booking your flight. In addition, the airline can also recommend particular flights that might be more comfortable for your pet, such as an early morning or late evening flight in the summer because it is coolest, or a flight with a minimum number of stops. Choosing a less crowded flight or flying during off-peak hours can also protect the pet from the stress of being in a large crowd or from being packed in with a lot of cargo.
Your Vet and Flying with Your Pet
No matter how your pet flies, there are some precautions that you must make before your trip to keep him safe and healthy. The first step to a safe trip is to have your pet examined no more than ten days before departure. You will need to obtain a current immunization certificate that shows your pet has had his rabies vaccine, and a health certificate that states that he is in good health. Your vet can also provide you with specific instructions for feeding your pet on the day of the flight, taking into consideration the age of the pet, the pet’s size, and the time that the pet will be in the air.