Going on vacation, but don't want to leave Fido at home alone? Whether you're traveling with your dog or cat, be sure to check out these tips for making your flight, and theirs, enjoyable. However, first and foremost, we shouldn't have to say it, but...
Don't Fake A Service Animal
I'm sure you've heard stories of people ordering pet vests for their dog online in order to sneak their pet onto a plane disguised as a service or emotional support animal. Don't do this.
First of all, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's a federal crime. The ADA governs all public places, and mandates that people who require service dogs be granted access to areas where dogs are not normally allowed, such as restaurants, stores, and airplanes. That is because service dogs are trained to do a specific task to aid their handler. The ADA excludes emotional support animals.
Then there's the Air Carrier Access Act. The Air Carrier Access Act does allow emotional support animals on planes, as long as they have proof of requirement. This is how scammers are able to get letters from their unethical doctor or a dog vest online in order to get their pets on planes. Pet owners tend to assume that the Air Carrier Access Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are the same, and think that their dog's high-vis vest and fake doctor's note can get them into grocery stores and restaurants as well. This is not true.
Second, it's extremely disrespectful. Just because it's easy to order a vest for your dog online doesn't make it right. Training a service dog takes years, and putting your untrained pet in a vest so you can enjoy it's company on an airplane just makes working service animals look bad. Every time Fido snaps at a child, jumps on a stranger, or relieves itself in a public place, someone who legitimately needs their service dog for their daily activities has a harder time doing so. Or, perhaps worse, your pet in a vest could distract a working service dog from monitoring their handler's blood sugar, or otherwise looking out for them. The idea that the world is being overrun by fake service dogs and fake emotional support animals makes restaurant owners, business owners, and airlines suspicious of every working service dog they encounter, too.
Follow the rules, and follow the steps below instead.
Ask Yourself Why You Want To Travel With Your PetWith that out of the way, let's think about your pet's needs. Is Fido really up for a 3-hour flight? Or even a 1-hour flight? If your dog doesn't even travel well in your car, consider whether a trip in a plane is right for your pet. Many airlines only allow cats or small dogs to travel as carry-on in the cabin, and larger animals (including big dogs) will need to travel in the cargo hold with the luggage. Ask yourself if the risk is worth it for a trip with your pet, otherwise it may be better to kennel your pets while you're away.
If you have no choice but to travel with your pet, it's first advisable to crate-train them. Starting with the top half of the crate removed, make it a comfortable, safe space for your pet to get used to. After your pet feels comfortable going to the bottom half of the crate on their own, add the top half and leave the door open. This way, your pet has a chance to get used to the place they'll be in for the entirety of the journey. Make sure the pet carrier is airline approved, and be aware that many airlines require that the carrier is large enough for your pet to be able to stand up and turn around while in it.
It's important to note that most airlines such as American, United, Delta, and Southwest will allow you to travel with pets in the cabin depending on their size. However it's important that before you book a flight you check the guidelines for whichever airline you choose as they all have different standards, rules, and pricing for transporting pets of all kinds.
Generally, dogs and cats are always allowed, but there may be some restrictions on breeds or other types of pets, such as bunnies or lizards, depending on the airline that you fly with and the country that you will be flying to. Make sure to thoroughly research the airline and country laws and restrictions regarding the transport of pets.
Take All The Necessary Precautions
1. Booked your pet to fly with you in the cabin? Call the airline to confirm. Booked a pet-friendly hotel or accommodation? Call the host to confirm. Hotels often have just a few pet-friendly rooms, and airlines have limits to how many animals can be in the cabin. Call at least 48 hours in advance to confirm both.
2. Travel with copies of your pet's medical history, and make sure they have ID. That means a collar with your name and contact information on it, as well as a microchip. This study from 2009 shows that microchipped dogs are 2 times as likely to be returned safely to their owners, and microchipped cats are 20 times more likely to get home safe. Make sure your information is up to date on both your pet's collar and in the microchip database.
3. Check to see what other paperwork may be required, depending on your circumstance. If you are traveling with a legitimate service or emotional support animal, then check this article for a breakdown on general requirements, but we would also recommend checking the guidelines for the airline you chose.
4. Don't forget to pack. For your pet, that is! In order to keep your pet calm and happy on it's journey, they will need their comfort items, like a small bed or toys, as well as their leash, safety harness, waste bags, and a water bowl. You can find collapsable water bowls online, or you could freeze a small bowl of water so it won't spill into the crate.
5. Keep your pet on their normal feeding schedule. Be careful not to overfeed Fido before your flight; it could make him sick. Instead, a light meal may help combat nausea and nerves before your pet flies.
6. Don't sedate your pet. Unless your vet has recommended otherwise, do not sedate your pet before flying. It could increase the risk of heart or respiratory issues because of the changes in altitude.
7. Once you arrive to your destination, stay with your pet until they feel comfortable that your hotel room or accommodation is a safe place for them. Now that your pet has had a very confusing travel day, make them feel comfortable and safe by unpacking your luggage and staying with them for a few hours. Let them outside, and get them back on their normal routine before you continue your trip.
8. Be aware of fees. You can check to see how much it will cost to fly with your pet here. Be aware that fees may change based on your destination and airline. You can also check the eligibility of your pet to travel into or out of the United States at this website.
The Future Of Pet Travel?
Does all of this sound like a huge hassle to you? This company is trying to change that! PetAirways operated from 2009 to 2011, and also helps bring pets from shelters to new homes across state lines. They are trying to relaunch their planes where pets stay in the main cabin, so keep checking back for updates on that.
Now you and Fido are ready to fly! Need a flight? I know a great website.