September 28, 2014: Traveling By Air With Your Pet

~by Susi Pittman

Air travel for your pet can be daunting, dangerous and stressful for your pet, especially if your pet is traveling as baggage or live cargo.

Although awareness to the rough way animals are handled during commercial flights has caused some change for good, animals are still being killed, injured or lost. I personally have NEVER and will NEVER fly my pets! In these days of high-alert security, the comfort of your pet does not rank high on any employees list, no matter what the sales pitch.

The Humane Society of the United States urges pet owners to consider alternative ways to travel with pets, unless you must absolutely fly. In that case, it is best if your pet is a small cat or dog and can join you in the cabin area in a properly approved container. Your pet however, cannot have an offensive odor or annoy other passengers.

If you must fly a larger animal, you have two options to consider. First, you may fly it as “accompanied baggage.” This is where your pet travels in the cargo hold alongside your checked luggage. The second option is to transport your pet as a “live animal” cargo shipment. Your pet can travel through regular cargo channels or special expedited delivery services. Pets in the cargo system are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked-baggage system. Contact your airline directly to determine the best option for you and your pet and do it well in ADVANCE to insure that you understand what is required of you and risks that may exist for your pet…extreme stress, injury and possible death.

Check with your veterinarian to be sure that your pet is fit to travel. Some dogs and cats do not fly well because they may have difficulty breathing even under normal conditions. Your veterinarian can advise you about the pros and cons of flying your pet. You will need a health certificate provided by your veterinarian, issued no more than seven to 10 days prior to departure.

If your pet must fly as cargo, here are some necessary tips to consider:

  • Secure a travel i.d. label on your carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives
  • Use a direct flight
  • Always travel on the same flight as your pet
  • Consider traveling at non-peak times as your pet will be subject to less rough handling, and traveling early morning or late evenings in the summer and afternoons in the winter, will help to secure a more tolerable temperature range
  • Do not feed your pet six hours before travel only small amounts of water or ice.
  • Carry a current photo
  • Make the crew aware that your pet is traveling in cargo
  • Make sure you get to your pet immediately upon arrival at your destination

Your pets well being should be your utmost concern. You are the one ultimately that will make the decision to fly your pet, take the time to educate yourself, investigate each airline’s rules and plan responsibly. To not do so, could jeopardize the health and even the life of your pet family member.

Susi Pittman is founder of and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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