Holiday Pet Travel

Simple steps to keep your pet safe in transit.

Holiday travel and New Year’s vacations are just around the corner. If you’re planning to take your four-legged friend with you this season, consider these tips to ensure your pet enjoys the ride safely.

The ASPCA urges pet owners to think twice about flying their pets on commercial airlines, especially if they plan on checking them in as cargo. “Unless your animal is small enough to fit under your seat and you can bring him or her in the cabin, the ASPCA recommends pet owners to not fly their animal.”

But for those pet owners who have already committed to transporting their pets on commercial airlines, the ASPCA suggests some common-sense precautions.

If owners must fly their pets, in addition to a collar and ID tag, invest in a microchip for identification. Breakaway collars are best for cats. The collar should also include destination information in the event of escape.

After reception or inspection, secure the animal’s kennel with zip ties — a major factor in preventing animal loss at airports.

Failure to examine zip ties was a factor in the loss of Moya, a gray and orange Tabby traveling with her owner on Hawaiian Airlines from Hawaii to Los Angeles last year.

A porter took the kennel to the bag room. “The cat’s kennel was inspected by Transportation Security Administration inspection, but not properly secured thereafter,” according to a DOT incident report.

Moya bolted. But even worse, no one reported the escape. Moya’s owner did not know her cat was missing until after takeoff. Neither the porter’s ban from HA contract work, or the $225 pet fee refund could have made up for the loss.

Fastening carriers adequately is one way to reduce the chance of loss. Also, try to reduce the number of flights taken over one journey, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When Horizon Air lost a Blue Heeler, the 45-lb. dog had already traveled from Anchorage to Seattle to Portland. He was overdue for a walk, but the trip still wasn’t over.

While the Blue Heeler was waiting in his kennel for the next leg of his journey to Medford, Oregon, a Horizon Air employee took pity on him and opened the kennel to take him for a walk.

Unfortunately, the American Kennel Club identifies the breed as one that is naturally suspicious of strangers, and the Blue Heeler bolted.

Horizon Air’s policy states that if its employees believe the pet needs attention, they should locate the owners.

“The employee was trained on this policy, but was trying to be helpful and kind to the dog and opened his kennel,” the airline reported in its incident report to DOT.

The Blue Heeler was missing for four days before his owners found him.

Pet owners can learn lessons from this herding canine, whose instinct was to make a break for open space.

“Book a direct flight whenever possible,” advises the ASPCA. “This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel.”

The ASPCA also cautions owners to purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate large enough for a pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. Some airlines even sell the USDA-approved shipping crates.

Make sure the crate’s door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in an emergency. Affix a current photograph of the pet to the top of the crate for identification, added the ASPCA.

“Should your pet escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver,” an ASPCA spokesman said. “You should also carry a photograph of your pet.”

What tips do you have for keeping your pets comfortable when traveling? Share them below!



About Gina Coleman

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.
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