Flying With Your Dog or Cat


Occasionally clients ask about moving or traveling with their pet. Most pets will travel well if they are acclimated to the car but many, especially cats, do not. Air travel gets the trip over in a matter of hours rather than days of driving. This is still stressful for the pet, but is of shorter duration. There are some things you should consider before putting your pet on the plane.

Many people worry about the safety of air travel. Over a million pets a year are shipped, according to airline estimates. Each year one or two well-publicized accidents detract from that fact. Actual airline industry statistics report less than 30 animal injuries or deaths per year. Often accidents happen because of poor planning, improper containers, or other human error; sometimes things are truly an accident with no one person to blame. Airlines really do take the best interest of the pet into consideration to try and avoid any incident.

Professional pet transporters meet all regulations, have the most knowledge, and use the highest quality products available. Using a pet shipper is not the least expensive alternative, but often can be the best choice.

Restrictions from the Transportation Safety Association, TSA for short (formerly the Federal Aviation Association) have grown stricter over the last few months due to the number and types of air accidents around the world. Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty booking your pets travel plans. Several airlines now refuse to book pets from the general public; some limit pet travel during the summer months. You may need the help of a pet transportation company.

Whether you have help or do it yourself, certain things must be done.

1. You will need an airline approved shipping crate. If you are fortunate enough to have a small pet that can travel with you in the cabin (the airline decides if you are allowed to do this), a soft-sided carrier may be used. Otherwise, all dogs, cats, and other small animals go into a hard fiberglass crate. There are a wide variety of crates available. In general, the less expensive crates are not the safest. The high priced crates are constructed of heavier fiberglass, and have stronger doors that will not pop open easily. Each container must be appropriately labeled with live animal stickers, feeding instructions, and have bowls attached to the door. The animal must be able to stand without hitting its head, turn around and lie down in a normal position. The pet will feel more comfortable is acclimated to the crate in advance.

2. Every pet needs a health certificate and proof of vaccines (especially rabies). This means your veterinarian exams the pet, and is certifying the pet is healthy and free of contagious diseases. Federal law demands a certificate dated no more than ten days prior to the trip. We recommend you get it as close to the trip as possible. If there are any delays, you may have a chance to reschedule before the certificate expires. Otherwise, you will be paying for another one.

3. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) do not recommend tranquilizing your pet prior to flying. It is now widely recognized that tranquilizers are the number one cause of illness and death in shipped animals. No emergency medical care is available; as long as your pet is in good health, air travel does not pose a life-threatening problem. He or she may be upset, but will arrive safe and sound. Tranquilized pets are often rejected for shipment by the airlines, and several refuse to take any sedated pet.

4. Excessive heat or cold can prohibit pet shipments. Each airline and airport can put embargo’s in place that prevent moving a pet when it is less than 35 degrees or over 85 degrees at either end of the move. These restrictions are used for the safety of your pet and are also part of the federal law. Professional pet shippers and airlines must abide by these regulations. If your pet can not be moved as scheduled because of cold or heat, then the shipment is delayed until conditions are appropriate.

Professional pet transporters know all the in’s and out’s of moving pets. Since these companies ship many pets per week, compared to an individual shipping a pet only occasionally, they often have a better idea of routing and requirements.

Moving a pet overseas can vary from an easy move to extremely complicated. Each country has different requirements, and islands like Great Britain or New Zealand have strict regulations for quarantining pets upon arrival. Your pet transporter can assist with paperwork and meeting the requirements.

New requirements for pet transportation, as well as other cargo, are being considered by the TSA. Check with airlines carefully in the future, since new procedures will be instituted within the next few months.

Article submitted by: © Sally Smith