Flying with Fido

A guide to holiday travel


The fur will be flying this month as a growing number of pets take to the skies over the holidays. According to the American Pet Product Association, roughly 40 percent of pet owners would not dream of leaving their pets behind when traveling over the holidays.

And the hospitality and travel industry is welcoming these four-legged companions with more accommodations, incentives and rewards to lure their business.

But traveling, especially flying, with your pets takes advanced planning — both for their comfort and safety as well as to abide by the rules and regulations that are in place.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends taking your dogs only if you have the time and attention they require – and urges caution for your feline companions.

“Unless you'll be able to spend a lot of time with your dog, they'll probably be happier at home than tagging along on your trip,” advises Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS. “As a rule, cats are almost always better off in their own home.”

But if you are flying with your fur kids, here are a few suggestions from the Humane Society to make the trip easier (and safer) for your pets.

Transport your pet in the cabin. Air travel can be risky. Always choose to transport your dog in the main cabin of the aircraft if possible. Some breeds, especially those with “pushed in” faces that limit oxygen flow, like bulldogs and pugs, should never travel in the cargo hold.

Ask these questions if your pet is flying in the cabin:

  • Will the airline allow you to take your pet in the cabin with you?
  • Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
  • Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers (which may be more comfortable for your pet), but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.
  • If you can't take your pet in the cabin, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold?

Be aware of the dangers of flying your pet in the cargo hold
While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals die, are injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame. Study the performance record of any airline before choosing to fly your pet in a cargo hold

If you MUST put your pet in the cargo hold, follow these tips:

  • Use direct flights and travel on the same flight as your pet when possible.
  • Upon boarding, notify the captain and at least one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold.
  • If traveling during the winter months, choose an afternoon flight if possible to avoid extreme weather
  • Affix two pieces of identification on your pet’s collar: a permanent ID with your contact information, and a temporary travel ID where you or a contact person can be reached.
  • Affix a travel label to the carrier with permanent contact information, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
  • Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against them getting hooked in the carrier's door, holes and other crevices.
  • Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier.
  • Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian for flying.
  • Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before the trip.
  • Carry a current photograph of your pet to make it easier for airline employees to search if your pet is lost during the trip.
  • When you arrive at your destination, immediately examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet directly to a veterinarian.

For more pet travel tips, visit ■


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