Pets are our family. Wherever we go, we would want to take our little buddies along. But before embarking on any journey, one should ensure that the pet is ready to travel. Most pets are terrified of strangers and new places hence, one should be extremely sure of the pet’s health and temperament that it can handle the adventure. Also, it is important to stay on schedule for feeding and walking your pet throughout the travel duration.
Things to Prepare before Travel:
Pet ID: Your pet should always carry a tag with his name, your name, and contact details. Ideally, for dogs and cats, there should be a microchip.
Pet Carrier: A pet carrier of the size of your pet is a must for any travel whether it is through the air or via rail. One can check the specific requirements of the carrier on the service provider website. Also, it is important to label the carrier with a pet tag and marking it as ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ to prevent it to be considered as regular luggage. One needs to get their pet to acclimatize to the carrier before starting their journey. It can be done by placing the bedding of your pet inside the carrier and putting some treats to make your pet comfortable with it for a few days before the travel day.
Medical Records: Before the journey, you need to gather health records, medication information, and proof of vaccinations from your vet and carry them with you. Rules vary by the airline and country of travel so one needs to check the airline website for the pet passport requirements
Travel Kit: Pet travel kit should include all your pet essentials, collapsible water bowls, waste bags, safety harness, a leash, and most importantly, the bedding which the pet is used to
Documentation: The documents required for your pet’s travel varies based on where you are traveling from and where you are going. Contact both the consulate of the countries you are traveling to and your veterinarian to make sure your dog has all the required paperwork for your trip
Road Travel/Pet Taxis: Road tripping is the most popular way of travel with your pet where you can travel at your own pace, pack as many supplies, and most importantly, you get to stay with your pet throughout your journey. Keep your pet in the back seat of the car preferably accompanied by another human. If an airbag deploys while your pet is in the passenger seat (even in a crate), it might injure your pet. Also, keep them off the window to avoid getting them hurt. Like humans, all pets (or their carriers) should be buckled up to the vehicle for your pet’s safety and for your safety. Also, it is important to take sufficient pit-stops throughout the journey.
Air Travel: Air travel could be dangerous for animals especially with pushed-in faces such as bulldogs, pugs, and Persian cats. Their short nasal passages leave them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. The safest place for your pet for air travel is with you in the plane’s cabin. In-cabin travel is allowed for only small pets like cats, small-breed dogs, and rabbits weighing less than 20 pounds. All airlines have specific rules regarding the age and weight of the pet as well as specifications for the size of the pet carrier that can be carried in a cabin. Also, there is a limit on the number of pets that can be carried in a plane hence, it is important to make reservations in advance. One can check those on the airline website before making any reservations.
For international travel, most countries require to have a pet health certificate from a vet who’s been accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s Animal Health Inspection Service lets you check your pet’s eligibility as well as entry and exit requirements for many countries.
For bigger pets weighing more than 20 pounds, traveling in cargo is the option unless they are emotional support or service dogs. Since the cargo hold needs to be pressurized to allow pet travel, all airlines do not have this option. Cargo hold travel differs from in-cabin travel in many ways, but the biggest is that you will not have access to your pet during your flight. Your pet will spend the entirety of the flight, including tarmac delays, in the cargo hold, where there can be fluctuations in temperature. One needs to be sure of your pet’s health as it may feel stressed in cargo because of extremely hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling.
As a best practice, the following is recommended for air travel.
Use direct flights
Travel on the same flight as your pet
When you board the plane, notify the captain
Choose a comfortable carrier for your pet that allows him to stand
Affix a travel label to the carrier
Do not tranquilize your pet before your travel
Avoid over-feeding before travel
The travel fare varies from airline to airline and one needs to check in advance for the applicable fare.
The pet must remain in the carrier throughout the travel unless there is some pet-relief area. During the security check, owners need to remove the pet from the carrier and send the carrier through the x-ray scanner. The pet is required to be scanned through the security check as the owner.
For emotional support animals, one can travel with their animal, often free of charge, as long as you prepare the correct paperwork and your dog can fit comfortably on your lap or in the space in front of your seat. Most airlines need a doctor’s letter stating that your dog is flying with you to help with a mental or emotional condition. Your emotional support animal can be denied boarding or removed from the plane if it shows aggressive behavior to passengers and/or flight staff. Contact the airline you are traveling with to understand the specific paperwork it requires and to inform you that you are traveling with an emotional support animal.
Rail Travel: Rails are also one of the convenient ways of travel with your pet. Most rail service providers allow small pets including dogs and cats with a nominal amount. There is however a limit on the number of pets that can be carried in a train hence, it is important to make reservations in advance. Also, some service providers have specific rules regarding the age and weight of the pet, size of the pet carrier, and need an authorization letter from the pet owner.
Cruise Travel: Traveling by the sea is the most time consuming and expensive option of all. It is advisable to travel when the weather is milder (like fall or spring) when it is less likely your pet will encounter extremes of heat or cold during the travel. One needs to use the right carrier as suggested by the service provider. Some cruise lines permit pets in private cabins but most confine pets to the kennel/catteries. It is advisable to contact your cruise line in advance to find out its policies and which of its ships have kennel/cattery facilities. Also, while using the ship’s kennel, make sure it is protected from the harmful elements and check on your pet frequently.
Before any journey, pet owners should note that they do not overfeed their pets before traveling. Also, one should not sedate the pet as it can pose risks for heart or respiratory issues due to changing atmospheric pressures and changing latitudes.
Pet Resorts/Hotels– Most properties these days have pet-friendly rooms to make your stay comfortable. Do make sure to book in advance and confirm the specific needs (if any) for your pet.
A number of websites such as GoPetFriendly, PetTravel, BringFido, etc. ease out the process of pet travel by connecting pet owners to a chain of hotels, restaurants, beaches, stores, campgrounds, off-leash parks and even, wineries that are pet-friendly