Before you take your four-legged family member on a high-flying adventure, make sure you know these necessary safety precautions and restrictions for a happy, healthy flight. You are carrying precious cargo, after all.
First things first: Always check an airline’s specific requirements prior to booking your flight. The Humane Society recommends traveling with your pet in the cabin rather than in the cargo hold, and only if air travel is absolutely necessary. However, airlines only allow a limited number of pets per flight, so book your trip early and call ahead of time to notify the airline that you plan on bringing along your furry friend. Canine travel directory BringFido.com recommends booking a non-stop, direct flight when possible and flying on a weekday, when airports are less hectic. It’s also better to fly in the morning or evening in the summer or at midday in the winter to avoid extreme temperatures.
In-cabin pets must be carried in carry-on bags of specific dimensions and are subject to a service charge each way. Southwest Airlines even sells its own pet carrier that meets the airline’s requirements, but there are plenty of carriers marketed specifically for airline-approved use. Sherpa Carriers, a division of Quaker Pet Products, operates the Guaranteed On Board program to help pet owners guarantee they purchase a permitted carrier for their trip. Visit FlyGOB.com, select a participating airline; enter the carrier, pet and flight info; and print the GOB form. If you are denied boarding due to your carrier, Quaker Pet Group will reimburse you for the cost of your flight and pet fee.
Try to purchase your pet’s carrier ahead of time and leave it out in the open for your pet to become well acquainted with it. Place favorite toys and treats inside or near the open carrier, or even sprinkle catnip inside to help your pet equate the carrier with a comforting, safe place. If you’re lucky, it might even become her new favorite napping spot. Take your pet for a few test drives around town or just down the block to help her become accustomed to her carrier.
If you must check a large dog as cargo, the ASPCA reminds owners to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian within 10 days of departure. In all situations, ensure your pet is microchipped and wearing a collar and current ID tag. Always carry a photograph of your pet for identification in the unfortunate event of your pet’s escape.