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Traveling with Pets


cat suitcase bag pet travelConsult Your Vet
Many pets are simply not suited to air travel due to health, age or breed concerns. (Breeds that have restricted breathing, including pug-nosed dogs such as Boston terriers and bulldogs, as well as Persian cats, are considered at risk when flying.) Animals under 8 - 12 weeks, or older than 10 years, might not be physically prepared for the stress of air travel.

Should Pets Be Allowed on Planes?

Get the Required Documentation
You need a health certificate if you want to get your pet on an airplane, usually issued within 10 days of your flight. Most veterinarians can supply you with everything you'll need. Similarly, if you're on the road and your pet gets into a fight or bites someone, you'll want documentation that the pet has had rabies and other vaccinations.

Watch the Temperature Range
Airlines will not transport pets if the temperature is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees. For this reason, it is best to travel early in the day during the summer, and at midday during the winter.

Purchase Nonstop or Direct Flights
Your pet is at the most risk for mishandling during connections, especially tight connections. A direct or nonstop flight is your best safeguard against these types of problems.

Take a Large Plane
Most 747's and other wide-body jets have forced air ventilation in their cargo holds, while many smaller planes, such as 737's and 727's, do not. Check with your airline or travel agent at the time of purchase to determine which type of plane you will be flying.

Investigate Airline Requirements
Airlines have very specific requirements for pet transport. Make sure you observe all requirements -- an airline can refuse carriage if you don't.

Feed with Caution Before Air Travel
Avoid feeding your pet large meals before flights. A small meal will stave off hunger, and you can feed your pet again at your destination.

10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

Exercise Your Pet
A tired pet is a happy pet, especially if she is cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Dogs in particular will be more content if you exercise them before traveling.

Stop to Walk Your Pet
Imagine if you had to be inside a cargo hold with no bathroom for a long flight. Your pet will be most comfortable if you take him out as close to flight time as possible. Similarly, walk your pet immediately upon arrival.

Get to the Airport Early
Arrive well in advance of your flight to allow time for any necessary special handling by the airline and for a last-minute walk. Your pet may also need a little extra TLC if he's nervous or afraid when flying.

Remember the Porter
Airlines must provide facilities for your pet, but keep in mind that many airport porter services are independently owned -- that is, they are not directly employed by the airlines. As a result, the airlines have less clout to force porters to take your pet down to baggage handling. It'll get done, but it might take some work and time. Remember to tip the porters; the reason many are reluctant to transport pets is that they lose precious time at curbside, where they can earn a tip every couple of minutes.

Administer Drugs Carefully
Sedatives for pet air travel do create risks for some animals, including difficulties at high altitudes and with temperature regulation. Consult your vet. If you decide to give your pet a sedative, the timing and dosage are critical. Bring your veterinarian's instructions with you to the airport.

dog crate carrier pet travelPrepare the Crate
Colorful, large, easy-to-read labels; sufficient water and food; and perhaps a favorite blanket or toy are essential for your pet's well-being. Some travelers label crates with their pet's name, and you should always make sure that your pet, as well as her crate, has identifying information -- such as a baggage address label and a name tag on the animal's collar including your contact information both at home and at your destination.

Follow Crate/Kennel Requirements
  • Kennels must be enclosed, with enough room for the animal to sit, stand and lie down. The crate must be strong enough to withstand normal travel usage.
  • If the crate has wheels, they must be removed before travel.
  • Kennels must have a leak-proof floor that is lined with some absorbent material.
  • Kennels must be well ventilated, with openings that make up at least 14 percent of the total wall space, and have rims that prevent ventilation openings from being blocked.
  • Kennels must have handles or grips that do not force handlers to put their fingers inside the crate in order to move it.
  • Kennels must be marked with the words "live animal" or "wild animal" in lettering at least one inch high, with directional arrows indicating the proper orientation of the kennel.
  • Airlines may have additional restrictions on the number of animals per kennel, as well as other requirements. For specific policies, visit your airline's Web site (listed below).

    Keep Your Pet in Its Carrier
    Airlines sometimes permit pets weighing 10 pounds or less to fly in the cabin, usually not more than two pets per flight. Fees may be $100 or more. All requirements for health certificates and other precautions remain in effect.

    If your pet is traveling as a passenger, remember that many people are allergic to pet hair, or simply do not care to be forced to deal with an animal during a flight. Be considerate and keep your pet in his carrier for the duration of the flight.

    Airline Pet Policies
    Air Canada * AirTran * American * Continental * Delta * JetBlue * Pet Airways * Southwest * Spirit * United * US Airways

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