Flying in Style: Know the Facts Before Flying with Pets
By Craig McAllester
A few years ago, I designed a kennel in Florida for a client who was living in New York at the time. My client’s elderly mother had 40 pet dogs. These dogs were her life. She spent every minute, every day, all day long working with and caring for these animals.
Unfortunately, noise became an issue. The neighbors complained, and so, it was time to move. The new home in Florida came with a large building that was perfect for a new kennel. The only question was, how to move the dogs from New York to Florida?
As I am writing this article, I hear tropical storm Florence pounding on the roof. Every time a storm of this magnitude occurs, the local animal shelters fill up with lost or abandoned pets. About a week ago, I was pleased to hear on the news that some animal shelters in the Carolinas were transporting their animals from local shelters to shelters in the surrounding states. This was in an effort to make room for the lost animals that are sure to need a home after the storm quits.
How do you move so many dogs and cats, at the drop of a hat, and with so little warning?
I once designed a kennel for a client who showed his own dogs nearly everywhere. He had his own grooming salon, and once groomed and polished, the dogs were loaded onto his private jet, where they flew off to another dog show.
So, if you don’t happen to have your own jet, what do you do?
As it turns out, there are people that do just that—they transport pets! One of them is an online connection of mine that is in the business of moving pets, worldwide. They are Sevenoaks Animal Logistics, from Canada. If you have one dog that needs to relocate or a whole pack, getting the right people, with the right equipment and with the right experience for getting the job done is important.
There are a lot of things to consider when transporting animals by ground or by air. If traveling to another country, for example, how will an animal clear customs? Even when traveling within the United States, you may find regulations that can slow your trip. Traveling to Hawaii? There is a mandatory quarantine period for incoming animals, as it is the only state that is rabies–free. Some pets may qualify for the five day or less programs, while most will have to undergo the 120 day quarantine period—now that would slow your trip!
What type of crate or cage is required when an animal is being transported? A hard plastic crate with a sturdy metal door and holes for proper ventilation is best to consider. The somewhat solid sides offer protection, and limit the dog’s view which may offer a less stressful environment for the trip.
A second option would be a wire crate with solid sides. The choice may depend on the carrier too. Some airlines may have a size limit. Each airline may have their own regulations, but also, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) www.ipata.org has regulations to consider as well. The departure and arrival facilities will also have their own regulations to consider.
Not all commercial airlines still take animals for transport, and some take only certain breeds of animals. Dogs with short noses, for example, don’t fly as well as breeds with longer noses and narrower skulls. The short-nosed, broad–faced varieties (brachycephalic dogs) may need to travel by ground or may be required to have a larger than normal crate for its size when flying. A French Bulldog, for example, is a big dog, and may require a larger than normal crate. This extra space allows the short-nosed animal more room to breathe—it gives the animal a little less of that closed–in feeling, which I get when I fly coach. That required larger cage may be too large for some airlines.
Larger dogs will travel in their crates secured in a pressurized and temperature–controlled compartment below the passengers’ cabin. Even though this space is climate–controlled, extreme ambient temperatures may prevent animals from traveling certain times of the year and to certain destinations. That may slow your trip too.
When on a plane or traveling by van or other vehicle, keeping your dogs contained, quiet, comfortable and as stress–free as possible are some of the main concerns. The animal should be able to lie down and stand with their head upright, in a normal standing position, unfettered.
It is important that the animal not have access to toys or other things that could potentially cause the animal to choke or have difficulty during the trip. A blanket or shredded paper is all that should be on the crate floor. A no-spill type water bowl should be secured to the kennel front. That allows for easy refilling without opening the crate door. The same with a food bowl. The overall shape of the crate should be rectangular and flat on top. Even the dog’s collar should be removed and affixed to the outside of the crate. That way, the dog won’t have a chance of catching his collar on something during transit.
When buying a crate, ensure that there are no sharp edges, corners, etc. Everything should be smooth to the touch. There should be tie–down points where the crate can be secured to the floor of the vehicle. The crate should not have any wheels if intended for travel in any kind of vehicle. The door should be secured with additional zip-ties or strong straps.
Likely, no flight attendant will serve these pets any peanuts or coffee to snack on. You will need to provide a container of food and water for the journey. It may be best not to allow the dog to have a real large meal just before take–off. A smaller meal, a few hours before departure, should be fine. Some water may be frozen as it will thaw in flight. The animals should be provided with food and water during layovers.
It would be a good idea to check with your veterinarian and with the arriving destination to see what medications and/or vaccinations may be required for the trip. If keeping medications with the crate, the traveler should also have a separate supply of medications should something be lost. All the animal’s papers and medical records should accompany the animal as well as the person traveling with the animals.
Sometimes, it is important to turn a task over to someone with the experience and knowledge to get the job done. Moving a lot of animals might be one of those times.
Craig L. McAllester, President, Craig L. McAllester, Inc, is a kennel designer, and author of several books, the latest of which is, Boarding Kennels: The Design Process. He has been designing veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, animal shelters, police, military, and U.S. Department of HomeLand Security/Border Patrol working dog kennels, here in the United States of America, and in other countries around the world since 2003. He may be contacted at 1-877-234-2301, [email protected], www.KennelDesignUSA.com. A special thank you to Les Oakes of Sevenoaks Animal Logistics, www.sevenoaksanimallogistics.com for sharing information for this article.