ASPCA-Safe Air Travel with Pets

Dog Carrier

Traveling away from familiar places can be very stressful for a pet. Air travel in particular can cause anxiety, especially if your pet must go into the cargo hold, a strange place, and will not be able to see you for several hours.

Unless your pet is small enough to fit under your seat in the cabin, the ASPCA recommends you leave your pet at home, either with a pet sitter, a relative or friend or a recommended kennel. However, if you are committed to taking your pet on a commercial flight, the ASPCA offers 10 tips for safe travel.

  • Take your pet for a checkup at the vet’s office. Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date. You must have a health certificate from the vet dated within 10 days of departure. If you are traveling to another country, contact their foreign office and ask about their particular requirements for pets entering the country.
  • Your pet should have a microchip as well as a collar and ID tag. Include your destination with a phone number where you can be reached in case your pet escapes.
  • Take a direct flight if possible. This will decrease the chances of your pet being left on the tarmac during inclement weather or being mishandled by airline personnel. It will also reduce stress for your pet.
  • Purchase a large enough crate approved by the airline. Your pet should be able to stand, sit and turn around in the crate comfortably.
  • Write the words “Live Animal” in very large letters on the top and the sides of the crate. Print arrows prominently indicating the upright position of the crate. On top of the crate write your pet’s name, the name, address, telephone number of your pet’s destination. Include whether you are accompanying your pet or if someone else will be picking him/her up. Make sure the door of the crate is securely closed, but NOT locked so that airline personnel can open it in case of emergency. Line the bottom of the crate with paper or towels in case of accidents.
  • Affix a photo of your pet to the top of the crate for ID purposes. Carry a photo of your pet with you as well.
  • The night before you leave, freeze a small dish or tray of water. It won’t spill and will melt by the time your pet is thirsty. Tape a cloth pouch of dried food outside the crate so airline personnel can feed him/her in case of a long flight or a layover. However don’t be surprised if your pet doesn’t eat until s/he is back with you.
  • Tranquilizing your pet is generally not recommended. It can interfere with your pet’s breathing. Ask your vet before giving your pet any medications.
  • Tell every airline employee you meet on the ground and in the air that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold in case any additional attention is necessary.
  • If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that the airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations you may have to have the animal removed from the cargo hold and cancel your flight.

A pet that shows any signs of illness should not travel on a plane. The increased stress plus any illness can spell disaster. Cargo holds are subject to excessive heat or cold, limited oxygen, rough handling that can result in injury, loss or death.

Brachycephalic pets such as pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, bulldogs, persian cats, should never be placed in cargo holds. They can become oxygen deprived and dehydrated. Consider alternative travel for this type of pet.

There are a number of pet specific airlines that fly pets exclusively to many destinations. Pets fly in the cabin where crates are safely secured, temperature is controlled and there is a veterinarian on board . You might want to check with them about what they offer in pet accommodations.

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