With the holidays coming up, the more we start to think about our pets and how they will travel with us. Here are some tips for flying with your dog, no matter the time of year.
Every time you fly, you will need a vet issued health certificate and Rabies certificate. Work with your vet to schedule an appointment for the health certificate in time for your flight. Dogs must be at least 8 weeks of age.
If you have a small dog, you have two options for flying with your pet - under your seat as your second carry on, or in cargo. If you have room and you are flying anyway, carrying on your dog may be the easiest and least stressful option for both you and the dog. Most airlines charge around $180 for your dog as a carry, in addition to the price of your ticket. Make sure to mention that you are carrying on a dog when you book your ticket. This may require you to call the airline to add this note to your reservation. Airlines will limit the number of dogs/pets allowed in the cabin on each flight, so make sure to book early if you know your dog is going with you.
If you carry on, the dog must fit under the seat in front of you in an airline approved Sherpa bag. Sherpa bags come in all shapes and sizes, but only certain bags are approved for travel. (Here's an example: http://www.petco.com/product/2615/The-Original-Sherpa-Dog-Carriers.aspx). Line the bottom of the Sherpa with papers/pee pads and a thin bed. Especially if you have a long layover, you'll want to provide as much head space in the Sherpa as possible.
When you go through the security checkpoint, you'll need to take your dog out of the Sherpa bag, and the bag itself will be go through the xray machine. It is a good idea to pack a small amount of food, empty dishes, your dog's collar and leash, and some favorite toys or chewies. Remember not to pack water, since all liquids must remain compliant with TSA regulations.
Dogs that bark or whine while in the bag and during the flight will not be tolerated. Make sure that your dog is acclimated to the bag and the crate prior to traveling. Otherwise, you have the option to ship your dog below in cargo.
Larger dogs do not have the luxury of fitting under the seat as a carry on, and must be shipped in cargo. Since you dog will be out of your site during the flight, it is important to choose an airline that you trust. I have heard horror stories with several airlines, and recommend Delta. I have had positive experiences with them and their cargo booking system, and you can track your dog for the entire duration of the trip.
You may fly a dog in cargo whether you are a passenger on the flight or not, so long as you have someone available to drop off and pick up the dog at the shipping and receiving airport. The airline will keep on file the name, address and contact information for the shipper and receiver. This helps ensure that the animal is not released to the wrong person at the receiving airport. The cargo department at your airport will give you more specific guidelines, but generally the airlines require a dog to be dropped off at cargo 2 1/2 hours prior to the departure of the flight, and can be picked up 30-60 minutes after the flight has landed.
When you ship a dog, work with the airline to determine the weight and size of the dog you are shipping, and the size of the crate the dog will be in. The airline will require that your dog be in a plastic airline crate, and plastic doors are not approved. Many websites sell airline approved crates, and you can find them in stores such as Petco or PetSmart. The crate must be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around, and the ears of the dog may not touch the top of the crate when sitting or standing. You will also need to include one dish with two compartments or two separate dishes for food & water that are accessible to the animal without opening the door.
The crate must have one large "LIVE ANIMAL" checklist label, two "ARROW UP" stickers and two pictoral live animal labels. There must also be a label showing when the animal was last offered food and water. Your health certificate and rabies certificate must be attached to the crate, as well as small ziploc bag of food. Food is especially required if there is a layover, and you'll also need to include feeding instructions for the airline staff.
Some other things to consider:
- Shipping a dog in cargo can be weather dependent. Since cargo is not temperature controlled, certain times of year can be very hot or cold, and some airlines will not ship at all.
- If your flights have a layover of longer than 6 hours, the airline may charge an additional fee for dogs that are in cargo, since they will require additional care from the airline crew.
- Airports are becoming more aware of dogs that fly as carry ons. Some airports now have pet relief areas in the terminal! For those airports that don't, if you have a layover, pack an extra pee pad for your dog to use or plan to go outside and find grass and go through the security checkpoint again.