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More and More People Traveling With Pets

One thing that’s changed a ton is that many pets don’t even fly in the belly of the plane anymore – they fly first class, in the cabin under their owner’s seat.

In fact, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, over one-half a million pets fly each year.  However, not all airlines permit pets to fly in the cabin and the policies vary greatly among the airlines.

Some airlines charge to bring pets into the cabin – some don’t. Some airlines restrict the travel of short-nosed animals like Persians or pugs because their shorter nasal passages make breathing difficult at higher altitudes. Many also don’t allow pets to travel as cargo in temperatures below 20 degrees and above 85 degrees.

Although you might think that issues with traveling with pets might happen from mishandling of the pet by the airline or from a panicked animal getting injured, but in reality, most mishaps happen because of animals being sedated. Accordingly, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises against giving tranquilizers to pets during air travel because the results are often unpredictable, even fatal.

The reason the AMVA has taken this stance is due to an animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium being seriously altered during sedation. According to Dr. Patricia Olson, director of veterinary affairs and studies for the American Humane Association, “When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.”

Certain airlines actually makes passengers sign a waiver stating that their animal has not been sedated.  So far, other animals haven’t established such rules.

One thing pet owners agree on is that the varying rules amongst the different airlines can be confusing. Here are some generally accepted rules regarding air travel with your pet:

  • Most airlines require pets to be considered healthy, less than 100 pounds and at least eight weeks old.
  • Pets are never allowed out of their containers and the airline assumes no responsibility for their health and well-being.
  • Less traditional pets are not allowed, like primates, some venomous reptiles etc.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates pet air travel, requires a health certificate from a veterinarian ten days before traveling for animals flying as cargo.  That health certificate is not required when your pet is flying as checked baggage or as carry on.
  • Fees vary amongst airlines.  Check your airline for details.
  • Some airlines only allow one pet to fly per flight – again check your airline for details.
  • Makes sure you alert the airline of your pet when you are booking your flight to avoid being disappointed.
  • Experienced pet travelers suggest flying during a weekday when airports are less hectic and recommend choosing a direct, non-stop flight.
  • Exercise your pet before leaving to help it relax and sleep.
  • Do not feed or give water to your pet two hours before departure.
  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier before leaving home, and make sure the pet is wearing tags or has a microchip.

For a pet that has never flown before, it can be a stressful experience for both the owner and the pet.  The best advice is to be prepared!

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