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Tremendous progress has been made to ensure the safety and comfort of pets that need to travel in cargo when accompanying their owners during airline travel. While travel in cargo is still not the optimum choice for pet transportation, we understand that sometimes there is no other option. Advanced and careful preparation can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everyone. Ideally, smaller pets that will easily fit in an airline regulated carrier can be placed under your seat during the flight. When traveling with animals it is always best to contact your specific airline directly to see what they require to insure your pet’s safety.
If you have already planned to transport your pets in cargo on a commercial airline, North Shore Animal League America offers the following tips to help ensure safe air travel with your pet:
1. Bring your pet to your veterinarian for a check-up and make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within ten days of departure
2. Your pet should always wear a collar with an identification tag. Breakaway collars are best for cats. The collar should also include destination information in case your pet becomes lost. Include multiple contact numbers to insure a swift reunion should your pet become separated from your family.
3. Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will reduce the chances of your pet being left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions and additional handling by baggage personnel.
4. Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate that is large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. Shipping crates can be purchased from many pet supply stores and airlines. Make sure the crate is sound and that all fasteners and latches close securely
5. Write the words "Live Animal" in letters at least one inch tall on all sides of the crate. Use arrows to prominently and clearly indicate the upright position of the crate. On the top of the crate, write the name, address, and telephone number of your pet's destination point. Also include whether you will be accompanying him or if someone else will be picking him up. Make sure that the door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in case of an emergency. Line the crate bottom with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels—to absorb accidents.
6. Attach a current photograph of your pet to the top of the crate for identification purposes. Should your pet get loose, this will help those looking for him or her. You should also carry a photograph of your pet.
7. The night before you leave, make sure you’ve frozen a small dish or tray of water for your pet. This way, it can’t spill during loading, and will melt by the time he’s thirsty. Secure a small bag, preferably cloth, of dried food outside the crate. Airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he gets hungry on long-distance flights or a layover.
8. Tranquilizing your pet is strongly discouraged, as it could interfere with his or her breathing, as well as make it difficult to assess the condition of your pet should anyone need to check on him or her.
9. Tell every airline employee you come in contact with, on the ground and in the air that you are traveling with a pet in cargo. This way, they’ll be ready if any additional considerations or attention may be required.
10. If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check on the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and deplaning may be necessary.
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