Thursday, March 4, 2010

Animal Travel Safety: Protecting Your Pet In the Air

The Humane Society of the United States warns pet owners that pets should not travel by airline unless absolutely necessary.  Although baggage holds are an adequate environment for most pets, some can subject animals to temperature extremes, poor ventilation, and low oxygen levels, according to the HSUS.

The fear of unfamiliar smells and piercing sounds during take-off lead to injury as well.  In November, a dog unloaded from Alaska Airlines from Phoenix arrived in Seattle in a "distressed state."

However, if air travel is unavoidable, there are several ways to reduce the risks.  "If your pet must travel by air, your best option is to keep him on board with you," advised the HSUS.

In response to a 2005 federal regulation requiring airlines to report mishaps, some airlines have put an end to pet cargo transport altogether.

Each airline can set its own rules about in-cabin transport of pets, from the size of the carrier to the weight of the pet.  Some airlines consider the carrier part of the carry-on allowance, charging for additional carry-ons.

While considering whether to transport your pet by air, you should also take possible restrictions by pet breed into account.  Some airlines, taking not that brachycephalic, or short-nosed, dogs are more likely to suffer in airplane transport restrict those breeds from coming on board.

"Certain breeds such as brachycephalic dogs and cats may have difficulty with air travel," the American Veterinary Medical Association said, noting the respiratory issues that go along with those cute flat noses.

As a result, British Airways will no accent bulldogs, pugs or Pekinese, although the airline will accept cross-breeds.  The airline will also not accept pets so sedated they cannot stand up.  

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air will fly brachycephalic dogs and cats, but at the owner's - and pet's - risk.  Those dogs include the American pit bull, American Staffordshire, Boston terrier, Brussels Griffon, Bullmastiff, Bull terrier, Chow Chow, Dutch Pug, English Bulldog, English toy spaniel, French bulldog, Japanese boxer, Japanese spaniel, Pekinese pug, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire bull terrier, terrier, bulldog, pug and boxer. 

The feline snug-nosed breeds flying at their own risk are the Burmese, Exotic, Himalayan, and Persian.

Are there some airlines that have a better track record than others?  The statistics generally correlate with the total number of an airline's flights, but certain carriers go the extra mile to keep pets safe and happy.  

Continental Airlines, for example, received an award for excellence from the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association for its PetSafe program.  Continental's customers can track their pet's journey on its cargo website while their pets ear travel miles throughout the trip. 

Continental also offers a dedicated 24-hour live animal information desk, as well as personal handling in climate-controlled vehicles for hub connections when temperatures climb above 85 degrees fahrenheit, or 29.5 degrees celsius.

Although touted as a PetSafe feature, such climate control is in fact a mandate of the Federal Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits airlines from exposing pets to extreme temperature for more than 45 minutes between terminal and plane, or for more than four hours in a holding facility.

The Welfare Act also prohibits pets from being exposed to temperatures less than 45 degrees fahrenheit or 7.2 degrees celsius.  Perhaps for this reason, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air will refuse acceptance of a pet if airport temperatures at the origin, destination, or connecting airports exceed certain limits. 

Protecting the airborne pet is ultimately the owner's responsibility, so common sense can carry a pet a long way.  According to the AVMA, owners would be wise and compassionate to choose early morning or late evening flights in warm weather, and midday flights in cold. 

And, cautions Alaska Airlines, try to stick to direct flights for a healthy landing.  

Provided By: ZooToo


Twinkietinydog said...

As my family travels a lot, we found your post today precious. In the past, when we did our research we could only gather bits of information here and there. Thank you for doing such a great job putting this comprehensive post together.

Melissa Trajano-Williams said...

Thank you Twink! Anything to keep people aware! I like to travel with Coco on planes and this really put things into perspective for me.

Sagira said...

Thanks for the information. We don't fly, but it is good to share this information with those that do. :)

Melissa Trajano-Williams said...

Your welcome Sagira!

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