Flying with a pet isn’t easy or fun but it is possible
You think you’ve got it bad: braving airport traffic and waiting in mile-long security lines, all for the privilege of resting your chin on your knees for a five-hour flight in an economy-class seat. So imagine how air travel feels for your cat or dog, who has no idea what’s going on as he’s packed into a crate, loaded into a cargo hold, subjected to very strange (and very loud) noises and – worst of all – separated from you. The reality? You probably can’t make this a fun experience for him. You can, however, make things go a lot more smoothly by following these tips.
When reserving plane tickets on the Web, check the airline’s pet travel policy, which can usually be found under a category like “special services.” If you’re reserving by phone, ask the agent to fill you in – not only on rules and regulations, but also on how animals are transported.
Before booking ask if your pet will be subjected to any extremes in temperature? Although the Animal Welfare Act prohibits animals from being held in temperatures below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees for more than 45 minutes during transport, it may not take anywhere near that long to make your pet uncomfortable.
“If you’re traveling in the summer, make sure to book an early-morning or late-evening flight,” advises Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “In winter, schedule your flight for the afternoon.”
Find out whether your pet should be taken to the regular baggage check-in or the cargo desk, as well as how many hours before departure you’ll need to check him in, what papers to present and what fees are involved.
Get a checkup
Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned to travel on planes. Most airlines require that a certificate of health, issued by a licensed veterinarian no more than 10 days before the date of travel, accompany your animal onboard. Certain breeds of pug-nosed dogs (such as boxers and bulldogs) are more likely to experience respiratory problems on planes and shouldn’t fly.
If your pet can fit in a small crate beneath the seat in front of you, many airlines will allow you to store him there.
Animals who need to be stored in cargo require a travel kennel, which can be procured from any major pet store and must meet certain size, strength and sanitation specifications. Food and water dishes must be securely attached to the structure; attach instructions for feeding and giving water in case of emergency.
“Bring the leash with you, so you can take your pet outside the airport right before you board and right after you land,” Rogers says.
Finally, your pet should have a collar with an ID tag bearing your name and phone number. For details, visit the Agriculture Department’s Web site on traveling with pets at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/petravel.html.
If you’re traveling with your pet internationally, know that many foreign countries and U.S. territories (as well as Hawaii) have quarantine or health requirements for animals entering the country. Contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country at least four weeks before travel to determine its policies (www.embassy.org/embassies). For information on Hawaii’s rules, contact the state’s Agriculture Department(808-483-7151, http://www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa).