Air Travel With Your Pets
If you are planning air travel with your pet, here are some things you need to know.
Travelling With Your Pet
- Remember that in most cases you will need a USDA health certificate to travel by air with your pet. Check with the airline as to how many days before travel the certificate must be issued. The USDA considers a health certificate to be valid for 30 days, but many airlines and states have their own ideas about how long a health certificate should be valid and 10 days is typical for domestic travel.
- A USDA health certificate is issued by a veterinarian certified to issue these certificates. Not all veterinarians can issue USDA certificates, so be sure to plan early to ask your veterinarian for a referral if he or she does not issue the certificates.
- For international destinations, each country has its own requirements for animal travel. To learn more about travelling with your dog to different countries, visit the USDA website To see international requirements, check with the USDA database.
- The USDA website also has domestic travel requirements.
- Use a high-quality carrier, one that will be sturdy enough to not open or break.
- Get your pet used to being inside the carrier prior to travel to minimize anxiety. Keep in mind that brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breeds may have difficulty breathing when agitated. Proper planning makes for a fun excursion for every member of the family, even the furry ones.
- Consider implanting a microchip ID for any pet that travels.
Flying your Pet in the Cabin with you
- Most airlines require pets to be 15 pounds or less to fly in the cabin with their owners (this weight includes both the pet and the carrier). This also means the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.
- Check with the airline about the carrier size and dimensions. Most airlines sell carriers or you can buy one from a pet supply store.
- Be sure to confirm with the airline the day before travel that your pet is coming with you.
- Some states require specific vaccinations. Travel to foreign countries now requires notarization of the certificate beyond the veterinarian’s signature. Always be sure to check with the country’s consulate regarding what you need.
- Some animals may be stressed or frightened by travel. Consider tranquilizers. If your pet is traveling in the cabin with you, you may just want to have some on hand in case of unexpected anxiety.
Your Pet as Checked Luggage or Manifest Cargo
- Some airlines have maximum weight requirements. Be sure to check, particularly if you have a big dog.
- Most states will not accept animals younger than 8 weeks of age. Such youngsters will not be allowed to travel by air.
Federal regulations require that each kennel be properly marked as follows:
- Display a “Live Animals” label with letters at least one inch high, on top and on at least one side of the kennel.
- Indicate the top with arrows or “This End Up” markings on at least two sides.
- Feeding instructions label: If food is necessary, it must be attached to the outside of the kennel.
- Feeding certification attached: Certification must be attached to the kennel stating that the animal has been offered food and water within four hours prior to drop off at the airline. IMPORTANT: Do not feed your animal in the two (2) hours prior to departure, as a full stomach can cause discomfort for a traveling pet.
- Contact information label: Label it with your name, address, and cell phone number, or phone number at origin and destination cities. It is also a good idea to include your pet’s name on the label (in case of escape, it may help to call the animal by name).
- Include two empty dishes: One for food and one for water, securely attached to the container and accessible from the outside.
- Absorbent material: The kennel must contain absorbent material or litter. (Black and white printed newspaper is a good choice). Please note that the use of straw, hay or wood shavings is prohibited for international shipments.
- According to the Animal Welfare Act, there are specific temperature guidelines to which airlines must adhere. Ambient temperatures in holding areas for cats and dogs must not fall below 45⁰F for more than 45 minutes when being moved to or from a holding area.
- Animals transported in a carry-on are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, so it is up to the person carrying them to see that they do not become too cold or overheated.