The recent death of the puppyplaced by a flight attendant in the overhead binof a United Airlines plane conjures up distressing pictures and ideas of what it must be like for traveling pets or for the owners who need to entrust them to airline staff. Many people have been retelling their horror stories like the Forbes Author who remembered that years ago her crated poodle flew cargo from Miami to NYC. When she landed she was told by Delta that he wasn't on the plane. She argued vehemently, but distraught, went home without the pup. At 3 am she was called and told that he'd been flown back and forth to Hawaii before being found, in the corner of the plane's cargo area. Luckily he managed to survive.
Things happen. So here, to prevent any more sad outcomes, a few common sense tips regarding travel with pets to keep them safe and sound.
- According to a study by AAA and Best Western International, more than half of U.S. pet owners travel with their pets. Service animals are increasing these numbers even more. If you have a choice, decide carefully and objectively whether it's best to take your pet along when you travel. Consider your dog’s personality and the reason you want to bring him or her.
- Cats are generally poor travelers. There are now cat backpacks and strollers, but placing them in new situations away from their territory often causes stress even if you stay with them.
- Familiarize yourself with current U.S. Travel Regulations or International Pet Travel restrictions before you go. List questions to ask your vet. Also check out websites such as DogVacay.
- Tag your pet’s collar with the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying. Also, check for vaccination requirements, and bring your pet’s medical records in case of emergency.
- Bring food, toys, a blanket or clothing that reminds your pet of home, and a collapsible water bowl. Short-nosed and excessively furry dogs may need a cooling vest in hot-weather spots; smaller dogs, who have a harder time regulating body temperature, may need a sweater.
- Aside from service dogs, airlines allow a limited number of small dogs or cats in the aircraft cabin as part of carry-on luggage; others only allow pets in the cargo area. Fees vary, up to more than $500. As most airlines only allow one or two animals on each flight, buy your pet's ticket before buying yours. Check carefully with airline policy. PetPlan’s Pet Travel Guide offers tips on pet-friendly airlines.
- Learn crate or carrier dimensions and include identifying information on both carrier and collar—including your home and destination addresses.
- Before the flight, walk Fido in an outdoor area or pet relief zone. Don't rush, don’t overdo snacks before the flight - for you or your pet.
- Calming meds may seem kind, and are effective to induce sleep, but can interfere with a dog's ability to regulate body temps. Another option is a DAP collar that emits stress-zapping hormones. Check with your vet.
- Don't allow your pet to be taken anywhere else in the aircraft. Place them under your seat, and within your sight.
- Flying options include a charter airline specifically for dogs.
According to the AAA, about 30,000 accidents are caused annually by an unrestrained dog in the front seat. Restrain animal passengers: you can use special pet barriers, seat belts, car seats or travel crates.
- Help your dog get used to the car; try driving to a dog park for fun. Feed your pet a few hours before the drive, keep your car cool, and consider using a harness for safety. Your dog may enjoy sticking his head out the window, but it could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections, according to the ASPCA.
- Stop every few hours for your pet's relief breaks and exercise. You can bring a portable litter box if you must bring a cat. The ASPCA recommends keeping a gallon of cold water on hand for hydration during the trip.
- On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, which can be deadly. If you’ll be visiting where pets aren’t allowed, leave them at a pet-friendly hotel — or at home — not in the car alone - For more info, auto safety tips for pets.
- Many hotel chains now pamper pets. See Bringfido for pet-friendly hotels and ideas. Some tips: Leave the TV on for comforting background noise. Keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door. Request a room away from the elevator to minimize noisy foot traffic. Set up a “safe space” in the room, with blankets and a water bowl.
- Seek out restaurants with outdoor seating so Fido can come along.
- Be kind and gentle, aware and responsive to your pet while you're traveling. And if it doesn't work out, make plans for the best possible stay-at-home scenario next time.