Reports of canine and feline deaths during airplane travels are alarmingly increasing over the years.
Data from the US Department of Transportation shows that United Airlines had 18 animal deaths on board in 2017 alone.
Despite having a PetSafe Program for boarding pets, they still have significantly higher death toll compared to other airlines.
Animal rights and welfare organizations are deeply concerned with these statistics, urging owners to avoid flying with their pets when there are other available alternatives. The occurrence of such accidents are actually unavoidable, but the unusually high number of death cases should be a call for action.
Many of these organizations like the Humane Society of United States are advocating for policy changes and improvements regarding boarding with pets.
In cases where air travel with your pet is unavoidable, you as the owner should know the risks, options, and your rights to ensure the safety of your furry friend.
Choosing the airline
Choosing the right airline to travel with is the first and one of the most important steps when traveling with your pet. Airline policies can widely vary from each other so be sure to do extensive research prior to booking your flight.
Websites like petfriendlytravel.com can provide you information about global airline pet policies. However, you should still do a follow-up via phone or mail as these policies can change without prior notice.
Preparing necessary documents
Most airlines would require rabies vaccination records while others require full vaccination records. All airlines will also require veterinary check-up certification conducted a few days or weeks prior to travel date.
Make sure to have all these documents ready and your dog checked-up to ensure a hassle-free boarding. This will also help detect any complications in your dog early on that might restrict their travel.
Checking for boarding policies
When reading airline pet policies, make sure to check for exemptions and other fine prints. Some airlines do allow pet travel but they will not allow them inside the cabin.
Some airline like Air France even ban certain breeds of dogs they consider as “attack dogs” like Pit bulls and Terriers from flying.
Most airlines would allow pets under 20 pounds to be placed in a TSA-approved carrier and put under the seat in front of the owner. Cats and toy breeds qualify under this policy. So despite its higher cost, most owners prefer this method.
Large breeds of dogs on the other hand have to fly in the cargo hold of the plane. This is where most accidents happen since the area is not temperature-controlled and poorly ventilated.
At the same time, the area is more likely to shift during the flight and is generally noisier than the passenger cabins. This could stress out your dog.
Preparing your dog for the flight
Traveling stress is unavoidable, thus helping your dog to minimize this stress is very essential. You cannot just put your dog in a crate then place him in a hot, and noisy cargo, fly for hours, and expect them to be okay after the flight.
There should be a transition and desensitization prior to travelling. It is like “preparing for a marathon” – you need to teach them how to be inside the crate, how to hold their pee, etc.
You can also consult your vet about products or prescription medications you could give your dog to help them cope with the flight.