Flying with Dogs

The Air Transport Association of America estimates that over 500,000 cats and dogs fly on commercial airlines every year. The days of pets being banned to the cargo area are gone, and some airlines will allow small pets to travel with their owners in the cabin. This article provides tips and guidelines for traveling in the cabin with your pet.

In order to qualify for the privilege of cabin travel, your dog or cat must be small enough to fit comfortably inside a dog crate that will fit under a passenger seat. The dimensions of travel dog crates are usually 8” x 17” x 12”, but contact your airline before purchasing a carrier. Every airline has its own particular regulations; some airlines permit soft-sided dog crates, while others only allow the hard dog crates. If your carrier does not meet the airline's requirements, you may not be allowed to use it. Animal carriers are counted as a part of your carry-on luggage, but generally require an additional fee, depending on the airline.

Your dog will be more comfortable in his carrier if you let him become used to it at home. Leave it open in the house with a comfortable cushion or blanket and a favorite dog toy inside. You may also want to try taking him for short excursions in the car so he will be familiar to traveling in it.

In most cases, airlines restrict animals to one small animal per cabin, so make sure that you have an advanced reservation. When you order your tickets, request an aisle seat with seats in front of you – it will be easier to slide the carrier under the seat.

Most airlines require a health certificate issued not more than 10 days before your date of departure. Rabies and vaccination certificates may also be necessary. It is best to inquire about all paperwork and restrictions before arriving at the airport – if all is not in order, you and your dog will not be allowed to board the plane.

Feed your dog a very light meal at least 4 hours before departure. Try to make sure he has relieved himself before the trip. Arrive at the airport early, especially if you are traveling during a holiday. Hand check your pet through security. Since you may have to remove your dog from his carrier for the security check, keep a dog collar and dog leash on him until you have passed through. Keep both your and your dog’s ticket handy. Most airlines will allow you to board the plane when they seat “those needing extra time or assistance”.

Tranquilizing a dog is sometimes necessary, but there are dogs who actually become more agitated with their use. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation for your dog; he knows him best.

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