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Traveling Safely (How to Keep Your Pet Safe)      

By Dr. Al Townshend

Having your pet along when you travel can bring even more pleasure to the trip and to the experiences at your destination. That all sounds fine but unless one plans well in advance the experience can be a disaster for the Guardian and for the pet.

Even taking your pet on a trip in your own car should be planned well in advance to the actual trip. Would the pet be more secure in a crate and less likely to interfere with the driver and other passengers? A dog will need potty brakes just like the Guardian so be sure to have a leash, collar, and poop bags readily available. A long trip will require food and water for the pet.

Crossing the US/Canadian border will require a vaccination certificate and to be safe, a health certificate from your veterinarian.

Traveling by public transportation, especially flying, requires even more advanced planning to assure a safe and pleasant experience.

Before going on a trip with your pet. Be sure to review the following questions:

Has Your Pet Traveled Before?

  • A pet that is not used to the hustle-bustle of airports can begin the trip with a bad experience. If the pet is going as cargo, do you have an approved crate for the pet? The pet must be able to stand and turn around in the crate. Is your pet used to a crate?
  • Smaller dogs and cats can travel; in the passenger area of a plane if they can go in a crate small enough to fit under the seat. Refer to your airlines animal policy as weights for small pets can vary by carrier.

How Old is Your Pet?

  • Puppies less than 8 weeks of age are generally not allowed to fly.
  • Older, senior pets, especially those that are not used to flying, can have a stressful experience that may have long term effects on the health of the pet.

Does Your Pet Have Health Issues?

  • Respiratory and heart issues can put a pet at risk when traveling. Short-nose (Brachiocephalic) breeds like Pugs and bulldogs can be at risk of breathing issues when stressed or become overheated.

Is Your Pet Stressed Easily?

  • If your pet hides when there is a knock at the door or is stressed every time there is a thunderstorm that may be a reason to reconsider traveling with your pet.

What Breed is Your Dog?

  • Large and giant breeds can be very expensive to take on a plane. Giant crates are costly and some airlines charge extra for large dogs.

How Long is the Trip?

  • Long flights can be stressful for a pet.
  • Try and pick direct flights that do not require stops and plane changes.
  • Once you and your pet reach your destination it usually takes pets some time to acclimate to the new environment.

Does My Pet Have an ID?

  • Any time a pet travels there is the risk of unforeseen problems not only during the trip but at the final destination. Making sure the pet has proper identification is essential.
  • Microchips are not required but a good idea for every pet.
  • An ID tag with the name of the pet, the Guardian’s name and address along with a cell phone number are all essential if your pet ever gets separated from you.

Once every question regarding the safety and happiness of your pet has been considered, be sure to review your government and airline regulations regarding pet travel.

Federal Government

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulate air transportation of pets.
  • Pets under 8 weeks of age cannot travel by air.
  • Only pets in good health are allowed to travel.
  • Technically, pets crossing state and provincial borders are required to have an up to date rabies vaccination and health certificate. These are not always asked for by airlines, however, border security on both sides of the border will likely ask for these.

State/Provincial Government

  • The province of Ontario has banned the American Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and their crosses from entering.

City Government

  • There are cities in at least ten states in the US that have banned certain breeds: Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Arkansas, Michigan, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

Airline Rules

  • It is always wise to be prepared and have an up to date rabies certificate and health certificate.
  • Every airline is different when it comes to pet travel. Some do not carry pets and some have strict rules on what pets can travel and where they are allowed in the plane.
  • Airlines charges can vary significantly depending on the pet and airline.
  • There are different airline rules for those pets allowed in the passenger section of the plane. All pets must be well disciplined, or they can be removed.

In-Cabin Pet

  • Smaller pets can be carried in a crate that fits under the seat.
  • Service animals for handicapped individuals such as blind passengers are allowed.
  • Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have become controversial since so many Guardians have registered their pet as an ESA to avoid the expense and the inconvenience of checking an animal. There is no training requirement or breed restriction to become an ESA pet and so there have been instances where these pets have been removed prior to the flight. Be sure your ESA pet is well trained and not likely to have an issue or the trip could be ruined.

Cargo Shipping

  • There are temperature restrictions for cargo transport. American Airlines restricts flight when ground temperatures at the departure terminal and the destination terminal are below 45°F (7°C) or above 80°F (26.5°C). Other airlines have different temperature restrictions.

Planning to take your pet with you on a trip requires a complete understanding of what is required in order to assure a safe and low-stress experience for the pet and the Guardian.

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