Although airline travel is fast and convenient, it can also be nerve-wracking, especially for pets. Simply imagining yourself in your pet’s situation while flying in cargo should make you think twice about bringing your pet on a plane. But if you absolutely must travel by air with your pet, there are precautions you should take to ensure the health and safety of your animal, especially because tragedies, including lost and dead pets, do happen from time to time with even the most reputable major airline companies.
Consider the Breed and Health of Your Pet
Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke and oxygen deprivation when traveling by plane because of their shortened nasal passages. These breeds include Persian cats, pugs, and bulldogs.
In addition to considering your pet’s breed, you also need to be certain that he’s healthy enough for air travel. Have your pet examined by a veterinarian in order to get a health certificate about 10 days prior to departure. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations, and consider whether any pre-existing condition would make it more difficult, or impossible, for your pet to fly.
If Possible, Keep Your Pet Close
Rather than handing your pet over to be placed in the plane’s cargo area, see if you can bring him along in the cabin with you. Small dog breeds and cats are usually allowed in the cabin, but you should call the airline company far in advance to confirm your options, as there may even be limits on the number of pets allowed.
Choose the Right Carrier and ID Your Pet
If you choose not to microchip your pet, be absolutely certain that he wears a secure collar and ID tag throughout the journey. You should also add destination information to the collar so that, in the event he escapes, he can be brought to you.
Most importantly, you need to purchase a carrier that’s secure and large enough for your pet to sit, stand, and turn around in. Add the words “Live Animal” in large letters to the top and sides of the crate, and add a photo of your pet to the carrier, along with your name, address, phone number, and information on the pet’s destination. Also, include contact information if someone else will be picking up your pet.
Draw arrows to indicate the upright position of the crate. Purchasing a USDA-approved shipping crate is also a secure option, as many animals escape from crates that aren’t strong enough. Finally, line the bottom of the crate with an absorbent bedding material and securely close the crate without locking it, in case of emergency.
Book Direct Flights
Simply booking a direct flight will reduce the risk of your pet being mishandled, lost, or left behind between flights. Travel on the same flight as your pet, and choose non-peak flights when possible, as these usually have fewer passengers and extra cabin room.
The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and many vets, including Dr. Karen Becker, recommend finding alternatives to flying when it comes to traveling with your pets, and only putting them on a plane when absolutely necessary. If you have booked a flight for your pet, you can avoid any issues by following some simple guidelines.