Flying with dogs, or any pet, has always been a stressful experience for pet owners and animials.
This month Peter Rork, Founder of Dog Is My CoPilot, flew his 11,000th passenger and recorded his 8,000th flight hour – that’s like spending 333 days or 11 months in the air. At Dog is My CoPilot, we transport animals from overcrowded shelters to adoption centers in other geographic regions where loving families are waiting to adopt the animals. Here are some helpful ideas which we’ve learned over the years which might help you and your pet fly safely. If you want to learn more about our rescue flights, sign-up here to receive an email alert about our life saving flights.
Regardless of how you’re flying with your pet, here are a few ideas to help improve the experience.
Obtain health certificate for your pet
A health certificate provides assurance that your pet is safe to travel. Plan your vet visit before you travel to avoid any unnecessary problems or flight delays and provide yourself with the confidence that your pet is healthy and ready to fly.
Understand when to choose Cabin or Cargo
When traveling on a commercial airline, pets can fly three ways: in the cabin, as checked baggage or as manifest (air) cargo.
In order to travel in the cabin, your pet must be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier, and the carrier will need to fit under a passenger seat. Policies vary by airline, so check the regulations prior to booking a flight. If you’re traveling with a cat, the cabin is usually the best choice. If your pet is a service or comfort animal, different requirements apply but these rules too have changed in the last year.
For dogs weighing more than 11 to 13 pounds (including their carrier), flying as checked baggage or air cargo might be the only option. The main difference between checked baggage and air cargo is how your pet is processed by the airlines.
In air cargo, you must check in and pick up your pet at the cargo facility of your airline. The facility is generally located at the airport, but not at the terminal where passengers check-in.
On the other hand, if your pet is traveling as checked baggage, check-in is at the ticket counter and pick-up is at the baggage claim in the airport.
Know the fees and book early
Reserving space for your pet is best done earlier rather than later because airlines limit the number of pets onboard each plane. Have the details of your desired flight ready for the agent, and be ready with a second choice, especially when flying around holidays or other busy periods in the year..
Once your flights are assigned, you’ll be asked to pay an additional pet travel fee, which ranges from $75 to $125. The fee is charged for each way of travel, so a round-trip flight means paying the pet travel fee twice.
Invest in a Pet Crate Training
A crate is your pet’s safe place during travel, so you should spend the month before travel crate-training your pet, getting them used to being inside the crate and letting them know that it is a safe, comfortable space. If you are unsure about the right crate for your situation, we suggest crates that are:
- Large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.
- Sturdy and free of obstructions or features that could harm your pet.
- Ventilated on three or four sides with little restrictions to airflow.
- Clearly labeled with your name, cell phone number, address and feeding and hydration instructions for your pet.
- Marked with a sign that reads, “Live Animal,” with arrows showing which way is upright.
- Lined with pet pads or shredded newspaper in case your pet goes to the bathroom in the crate.
If your pet is traveling with you in the cabin, soft-sided carriers are a better option than hard-sided carriers. Taking off, you must put your pet under the seat in front of you. Soft-sided carriers will compress, so that you can more easily fit the carrier under the space in the seat in front of you.
Prepare a Packing List
Packing for both yourself and your furry companion might seem complicated. To avoid forgetting any important documents or items, make a packing list. Here are some of the must-have items for pet travel:
● Your pet’s certificate of veterinary inspection and medical records.
● ID tags on your pet’s crate and collar with both your permanent address and vacation address(es).
● Contact information of your regular veterinarian and an emergency contact at your destination.
● Everyday essentials like food and treats, food and water bowls, collar, leash and harness, and a favorite toy or blanket. If you’re flying with a cat, you also may want to bring along litter and a portable litter tray
Don’t Forget About Hydration
Although you should avoid feeding your pet four to six hours before travel, hydration is very important. If your pet is traveling in the cargo hold, we often encourage families to try freezing water in a bowl to reduce spillage or buying an attachable water bottle for the crate. For cabin travel, pack a water bowl in your travel bag and offer your pet water throughout the travel day.
International Travel and Microchips
You may want to consider microchipping your pet before your trip. For some countries, including those in the European Union, pets must be microchipped if visiting from another country. Don’t foget to take time to familiarize yourself with each countires policy on foreign pets.. If you don’t meet their requirements, you and your pet may face difficulties upon arrival.
When it comes to traveling with pets, many familiies and pet owners image a stressful and difficult travel experience. Remember, it doesn’t have to be this way — advance preparation often improves the eperience for your both the pet and owner.