Dogs on Airplanes
There are many requirements that a pet owner must meet before traveling by air with a dog. While specific regulations will vary by airline as it relates to pets, most airlines work with the same general rules when it comes to flying dogs. Many airlines allow small dogs to fly in-cabin, but if you plan to fly with a medium to large breed you best check your options thoroughly.
Pets in the Cabin
Many airlines permit a passenger to carry on a small pet in the cabin of the plane provided they can fit comfortably into a pet carrier that fits underneath the seat (22″ L x 14″ W x 9″ H). The cost for this service varies by airline but is usually around $100.00 each way. An advance reservation is required for your pet as airlines limit the number of pets allowed to travel in cabin. For individual airline requirements call the airline before making your reservation or visit their web page. Most require the dog be clean, in good health with a recent health certificate and current on rabies vaccination. Carry the rabies certificate with you as you never know when you may be asked to prove up the vaccinations. The most important thing is that you call direct to make your reservations as they limit the pets on the plane.
Service Dogs in Cabin
All airlines are required by law to allow service dogs trained to assist a disabled person to fly in cabin with that person. Although airlines are not permitted to automatically require documentation for service animals other than emotional support animals, if you think it would help you explain the need for a service animal, you may want to carry documentation from your physician or other licensed professional confirming your need for the service animal. Passengers with unusual service animals also may want to carry documentation confirming that their animal has been trained to perform a function or task for them. You do not have to advise the airlines if you are traveling with a service animal, however it is highly recommended to do so if you require special assistance or seating in the bulk head row of the airplane. For safety considerations your service must not obstruct entrance/exit points during the duration of the flight. You should also make sure your dog is clean and well groomed the day of your flight. For the specific rules and regulations regarding traveling with a service dog visit – http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/rules.htm
Many airlines will allow working dogs such as police K9 and search and rescue dogs to fly on-board with their handler. This is not required by law but many airlines will accommodate these well trained K9s by allowing them to fly with their handlers. You must call the airlines for the requirements as very few list this privilege on their website. Most will require you to fly in uniform, have the proper health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination as well as a letter from the department or search team authorizing travel. Some airlines still charge the in-cabin pet fee and some don’t.
The customs laws of many nations restrict the passage of dogs and other pets over their borders. All pets are subject to quarantine laws of the country you are entering as well as returning to. Although many countries have lifted the quarantine requirements for service dogs you should check into this thoroughly prior to planning your trip. This website is very informative for information on traveling internationally with a service dog – http://www.miusa.org/ncde/tipsheets/servicedogs/
Pets as Cargo
So your dog is not a service dog, it’s not a police or search dog, and it won’t fit under the seat, what are your options? Many airlines will fly dogs as checked baggage or cargo regardless of whether you are a passenger on the flight or in need of getting a dog from one place to another. It is usually less expensive when you are traveling on the same flight as the dog, but some airlines don’t give you a break and charge the full cargo fee based on the weight of the dog and kennel size.
There is a lot to consider before you choose to ship a dog in the baggage compartment of the plane. Although airlines take great care when dealing with live animals there are a number of things that can happen when you turn over the care and control of your animal to someone else. According to the Department of Transportation over 2 million animals are shipped via cargo every year. Some of the animal rights groups have exaggerated the number of problems and will report incidents involving shipped pets as much at 5,000 per year. However, since the requirement that airlines report incidents involving pets traveling as cargo there are much fewer incidents than reported by some humane societies. According to an article from The Boston Globe from June of 2005 – June of 2006 only 74 incidents were reported to the DOT. To view the current incidents of pets flying visit the website Pet Flight. When you consider the amount of pets that are shipped every year, the risk for shipping a healthy, well tempered dog is minimal.
Some things to consider before shipping your dog as cargo –
Breed of Dog – If your dog is considered a brachycephalic (short nosed dog such as a pug or bulldog) you might not want to ship them as cargo. They can have difficulties breathing, especially when over heated or stressed.
Time of year – Typically airlines will place a ban in the shipment of pets in extreme weather. The ideal temperature should be between 45F – 85F. Many airlines will place an embargo on pet shipment when temperatures are too cold or too hot. Continental airline is one that has special accommodations for dogs traveling in extreme weather conditions.
Health and Age of Dog – Airlines require that a dog receive a full physical examination and be up to date on rabies vaccination prior to traveling. Usually the airline will require that the exam certificate be dated within 10 days of travel. However if you have an older dog or a dog that gets stressed in new and unusual environments you might not want to ship them via airline cargo. Most of the reports of animals that died in transport were older dogs or considered to be brachycephalic. The majority of injuries were from dogs trying to escape their kennel.
Type of Kennel – Make sure you have an airline approved kennel of sturdy construction that is large enough for your dog. Some of new kennels are poorly made and have metal doors that are thin and flexible enough for a dog to pop them open. The airlines should use sturdy plastic zip ties to secure the crate door. Be sure the check the bolts that hold the kennel together to make sure they are not loose. You can also use zip ties to help secure them as well. Some aircraft types cannot accommodate the giant or extra large kennels. The kennel needs to be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in comfortably. Check with the airlines to determine the correct kennel size for your dog.
Visit this website for some helpful hints on keeping your dog safe – http://www.airlines.org/customerservice/passengers/Air+Travel+for+Your+Pet.htm
Other Shipping Options
Unsure about flying your dog as cargo? There are companies that will transport your dog using other various transportation methods. Here are some resources to check out –