When it comes to planning a vacation or traveling to an exciting new place, most people assume that flying is the best transportation option.  If the trip involves humans only, that would be true, but if you wish to travel by air with pets, you may need to rethink your plans. The official recommendation by the Humane Society of the United States is that pet owners avoid all airplane travel with their animals, and if possible, seek other methods of transportation.

Flying is risky for pets for a number of reasons, as it can be a traumatic, loud, frightening experience for them to go through an airport, and then have to sit cooped up surrounded by strangers. It is particularly challenging for brachycephalic dog breeds (those with short noses) and Persian or Exotic shorthair cats, because it can be difficult for them to regulate their temperature and get sufficient oxygen. However, if you are moving to a new country, or absolutely must bring your pet on a flight with you, there are some precautions you can take to make their journey an easier one.

Instead of registering your pet as cargo (carried in a separate compartment) try to keep your dog or cat with you in the cabin.   The majority of airlines will accept dogs and cats on board as long as they remain in a suitable carrier, and are a specific weight limit.  DO NOT ASSUME that you can arrive on the day of the flight with your pet in tow, without having made previous arrangements to bring them.  Call the airline in advance to ensure that your pet will be able to take the journey with you, and that he meets the size requirements.

Questions to Ask Before Flying

  • Does the airline have any immunization requirements, and will you need to submit proof of medical records before you board?
  • What are the fees for flying with your dog or cat in the main cabin?
  • What kind of pet carrier does that specific airline require? (Can it be felt or mesh like a dog-purse, or must it be a hand-held plastic crate, etc.?)
  • What is to be expected of you when you take your pet through security at the airport?
  • What are the standard procedures you can expect upon arrival and going through customs?

If for whatever reason you are unable to take the dog or cat in the cabin with you, and you must send the pet in the cargo carrier, research the records of pet survival with that specific airline. Find out what the conditions are like on board, what the room temperature may be, and how many instances of pet injury or death have occurred in the last year through that airline.  Do not leave the care of your precious pet to someone else’s potential negligence. Try to be as involved in the process as you can, to ensure the safe and peaceful journey of your cat or dog.