The holidays are the most hectic for travelers. Airports are packed, traffic is heavier and leaving early is a necessity in order to get to your destination on time. Adding a pet to this can make traveling even more difficult. But if boarding your pet isn’t an option, finding a pet sitter is difficult or you just want to keep your animal close this holiday season, there are ways to make it happen more safely. Here’s what you need to know.
Update your pets’ tags and information.
Whether driving, flying or traveling by train, one of the most important ways to safely travel with pets is making sure that their tags are updated with their name and contact information. This will help reconnect them with you should they get lost. If they’re microchipped, make sure that information is also on the tag and that your information is current. In the event that something happens, it could prove critical.
If you’re driving, do it properly.
It’s easy to want your dog or cat to sit on your lap or in the seat next to you while you’re driving to your destination. But since accidents can occur, it isn’t safe for your pet to be loose. Protect yourself and your pet by placing them in a secured carrier that is in a place where they won’t slide should you need to abruptly stop. In case your pet does not do well in a carrier, your local pet store has seat belts and carseats to give them freedom while keeping them safe. This will also decrease their desire to jump out whenever you stop.
No retractable leashes.
If you’re flying and you plan to walk your dog through the airport, avoid retractable leashes. It allows the dog to stretch the limits and can easily snap with the amount of traffic moving through the terminals. A four-foot leash is the better option to maintain a specific distance between you and your dog.
Read the airline’s pet travel requirements.
Former Alaska Airlines employee Elaine Malmrose recommends reading your chosen airline’s pet policy before booking your flight. “Read the requirements to see what they need to have, size of carrier, food and water, their shots record and clear labeling. Most people show up to the airport confused. It’s easier to avoid problems for both you and the airline this way.”
Most airlines, and more specifically customs, require you to provide health certificates when crossing state lines or country borders. The appointment for the certificate can take up to two hours, but without the certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian, you may not be able to fly with your pet.
Additionally, some airlines, such as Delta, do not allow pets on flights to specific locations and have specific requirements for what’s allowed in the kennel. Make sure you are aware of these rules. The Transportation Safety Authority lists some reminders on its website. You can find them here.
Avoid the cargo hold.
Unless your pet is too large, Malmrose also advises you to avoid putting your pet in the cargo hold. Without proper restraints, the carrier can be jostled around, and that, combined with the relative darkness, can be a traumatic experience for your pet, which can lead to an even more difficult return trip.
She recommends taking your pet onboard with you in an airline approved carrier that can fit in either the seat next to you or under the seat in front of you. This allows you to keep an eye on your pet and your pet to know where you are at all times, which can make them a better traveler over time.
Make sure your pet is comfortable traveling.
Some pets are nervous travelers, and it can make for a difficult trip. If you’re not sure how your pet travels, try taking them for a small drive to gauge their nervousness. Pay attention to the condition your pet is in before you travel. If your pet is sick or on the older side, it might be best to travel by car or train rather than by plane.
According to Indiana-based veterinary tech Kristina Schmelzer, many animals can benefit from a sedative when traveling via airplane. Schmelzer says this will help to ease your pet’s uneasiness at being kept in the kennel and the different sensations that come with air travel.
It’s important to note, however, that giving your pet sedatives can come with risks, including a change in heart rate or breathing. Talk to your veterinarian to figure out what is best for your particular pet.