Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Traveling Safely with your Dog- Part 3

Car and boat are not the only ways to travel with your dog these days.  Sometimes life takes you to faraway places which you have to fly by plane to get to.  If you can avoid flying with your dog, it is the overall best option.  Traveling in a plane, whether the dog is in the passenger cabin or in the cargo section, is stressful for dogs.  In addition, shipping your dog can be incredibly expensive, dangerous for your dog, and a big headache dealing with airlines that are not pet friendly.  
Traveling by plane
There are three ways in which you can transport a dog by plane; in the passenger cabin, as excess baggage, or as cargo.
Passenger Cabin- Your dog can fly with you on the plane IF she is small enough to fit in a carrier that will stow under the seat in front of you (usually under 20 lbs, except for service dogs) and she stays in her carrier during the entire flight.  That isn’t bad, and if you have a small dog (or cat) this is the best way to go.
Excess Baggage- Your dog may be able to fly below you, in the cargo area as passenger excess baggage.  Of course, each airline has certain restrictions and regulations, and many airlines no longer allow animals to be carried as baggage, especially during the hotter months of May to September.
Former Corona Resident, JP Pineda, had a challenging experience flying her Shepherd mix, Duke, to Spain.  “I flew internationally with Delta, because they were one of the only airlines that would allow animals,” she said.  But she does not recommend Delta to anyone transporting an animal since “it was awful; they have really bad customer service.  I called several times trying to get everything I needed in place for Duke to fly and still they failed to mention their summer pet embargo where they do not take animals as cargo during the summer months.” So even though she had gone through the trouble of getting his flight in order ahead of time, she ended up having to make last minute arrangements to have him by fly air freight (cargo) instead.  
 Cargo- Sending your dog by air freight can be and should be a last resort.  If you can’t fly with your dog, if the dog exceeds the excess baggage limit, or if it is the summer months in which most airlines will not fly with live animals, you may be stuck with sending your dog by cargo plane.
 After JP had to change her plans to ensure Duke made it to her in Spain she had to arrange for a friend to take Duke to the airport while she waited for him on the other side. “It was ridiculously expensive.  Plus the vet bills and changing everything last minute, the costs can add up quickly.”
Sending a dog by plane can be a very scary experience for the human and a traumatizing experience for the dog.  So many things can and do go wrong, and many animals die during transport each month.  There are certain requirements and basic necessities any dog should have while traveling by air and the first thing should be a sturdy kennel that will hold up during all of the transportation.  Dogs can escape from their kennel, get tossed around in their kennel, and possibly even run over in their kennel.  Try to book a straight flight, with little to no connections.  This will lower the chance of your dog being misplaced, not transferred in time, or forgotten on a baggage cart.  And be sure your dog has access to water through a feeder that won’t spill.  A dog can get lost and left in baggage claim for days without staff even knowing a living thing is there.
You can use pet movers or relocation companies to take care of everything for you, but it will cost you a pretty penny.  These companies generally do all of the foot work for you as well as pick-up and delivery.  Many would say it is worth it to avoid the hassle of dealing with the airlines and customs.  But whatever   path you choose to take, do your homework.  Research the airline you are planning to fly with, their pet baggage restrictions and requirements and any seasonal embargos they might have.  Airlines are required to report any incidents with animals to the Secretary of Transportation.  The Department of Transportation then produces  Air Travel Consumer Reports each month, listing the number of animals injured, lost, or killed specifically by airline.  Be sure to make these reports apart of your research when choosing an airline.  In addition, gives monthly pet travel reports, tips, airline incidents and more through their website.  Some of the top pet-friendly airlines include Continental, United (Continental and United have recently merged) Jet Blue, Air Canada, and a new one you may want to check out a pet only airline called Pet Airways.  Once you’ve decided what airline you are going to use, contact the airline and let them know you are planning to transport a live animal to be sure they can accommodate you on your chosen flight date. 
Again, flying with your dog can be very stressful for everyone involved.  If you don’t have to fly, then don’t.  But of you do have to fly then please do your homework (months in advance)!  JP flew with Air Canada on the way home and though she had a much better experience, it was not without hiccups.  When JP was asked if she would do it all again she said, “It depends on the circumstance.  It would depend on how long I was going to be gone for and if it would be more stressful for my dog to be away from me for that long or more stressful for him to fly.  It’s a personal question every dog owner has to ask themselves.”

This article barely scratches the surface of traveling with your dog by air.  For more in depth explanations of what to expect when shipping your dog by air, check out

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