Moving or travelling abroad as well as air travel in the states is difficult and stressful enough for human beings alone. But when there are animals involved things get even more complicated. Taking pets across international borders involves a number of health and safety considerations, but mostly it can be highly stressful for the animals themselves, cooped up in unfamiliar circumstances for days on end, subjected to the hostile environments of aeroplane cargo holds, or even quarantined for up to six months. Most of that stress, however, can be substantially reduced by proper research, using the services of a qualified pet transport company, and simply taking your time when it comes to preparing for a move or travel internationally. Here are a few tips concerning various methods of pet transport: find the right one for you and your beloved companion based on point of destination, type of animal, and cost factors.
If you’re travelling with your pet within reasonable distance, say across the border into Canada, road transport can be a great option. Some of the bigger animal transportation companies now run scheduled trips in larger vehicles, bringing the costs right down and offering a more cost effective method of moving your pet than using air travel. Safe, air-conditioned, and staffed by experienced handlers this method also allows the animals to be taken out of their crates regularly so they can stretch their legs. For certain animals too nervous to fly by air this can also offer less stressful environment.
Over longer distances, putting your pet on an airplane is unavoidable. The International Pet & Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) are the experts in this field, so look for transport companies which carry an IPATA affiliation and operate according to their guidelines. This will insure your carrier has proper insurance, have undergone training modules, and understands the full range of issues like flight regulations, container requirements, import and export regulations, as well as pet passports and quarantine specifics. All of this is extremely important: conditions in the holds of commercial airliners can be uncomfortable for animals, with fluctuating temperatures, strong air pressure and a lot of noise. In 2012, United Airlines reported 12 animals deaths during their work year, with other airlines reporting similar levels of injury or fatality.
It’s important your vet give your animal a clean bill of health before even attempting air travel, and that you arrange the transport with someone who is considering the animal’s welfare at every step of the way. Because of the hazards we’ve outlined, it’s important to note that certain breeds are now prohibited from air travel on many commercial airlines. Pugs, for example, have a natural tendency towards respiratory distress due to their snub noses and have are featured prominently in horror stories of animals which have faced health difficulties during air travel. Companies like Delta Airlines, for example, have introduced strict regulations regarding brachycephalic dogs and cats. Your pet transport company will be able to tell you if your breed falls amongst those which may be prohibited and help you with an alternative solution.
While a more expensive option, (though unfortunately not one available for larger breeds), booking your pet an actual seat on the plane remains one of the effective ways to keep the best eye on its welfare. It also allows you, the pet owner, to consider what conditions you’re animal is in and how best to get it to its destination with as little distress as possible.
James Ryder is a passionate greyhound owner and racer, as well as employee of the pet transport company Airpaws.
Some US airlines will allow you to carry on your small dog or cat as long as their pet carrier fits under the seat in front of you and you clear it with them ahead of time. We used Southwest Airlines to bring home our girl Sara when we were on vacation using this method. . She was an unplanned adoption 🙂