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Shipping air cargo, flying a dog as excess baggage or cabin carry-on, temperature restrictions, health certificate, crate size, airline carriers, what you need to know.




Flying With Or Shipping A Dog

Joan Reinbold © TheDogPlace


Dog owners want to know "How do I ship a dog?" We asked an international authority for advice on shipping as air cargo or flying with your pet.


Flying or Shipping a Dog is easy todayBegin with a direct call to each airline regarding temperature restrictions, air cargo vs. taking your dog as a cabin carry-on, health certificates, etc. Much depends on how, when, and with whom you book your flight. Learn the best days and time to fly with or ship a dog, the proper crate or carrier, what direct flight doesn't mean and airline regulations.


Flying a dog can be done smoothly by preparing ahead of time. Start by contacting airlines to learn their policies (not all accept pets) and the cost for shipping a dog through air cargo as compared to flying with the dog as a cabin “carry-on.”  Safety records are important so check airline records.


Restrictions. Government regulations state that puppies must be eight weeks old. Temperatures must be below 70˚ F for snub/pug-nosed dogs and 85˚F for all other breeds at both departure and arrival points. If predicted temperatures are below 45˚F, you will need a veterinary health certificate stating the dog is acclimated to lower temperatures. The lowest exposure limit allowed is 20˚ F.


Booking The Flight. There is a significant difference between “non-stop” and “direct flights.” Direct means the flight will land somewhere but the dog will remain onboard. Always try for non-stop. Avoid “connecting” flights whenever possible. Fly on less busy weekdays and never on holidays.


Get the direct number to air cargo and directions to the air cargo terminal. In some cases, such as a very early flight, you can take your dog to the passenger check-in but remember, you can’t park there and it will take longer than delivering the dog to the air cargo terminal.


Air Cargo or In-cabin? Not all airlines allow dogs in the cabin and they all limit the number of pets per flight so book well in advance and confirm! The carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat. *The only exceptions are service dogs.* There are no temperature restrictions for “carry-on” dogs. A larger dog will be checked as “excess baggage” which means the dog will go in the cargo bay, needs an airline approved hard sided crate, and is subject to the same temperature restrictions as an unaccompanied dog shipped as cargo.


Airline Approved Pet CarrierYou will remove and carry your dog through baggage inspection so that the soft-sided carrier or small crate can be x-rayed. If shipping the dog, you may be asked to remove it upon delivery to air freight so that the carrier can be checked but your dog will not be x-rayed.


Be prepared. Verify check-in time and drop off /pick up locations. If the dog is a cabin carry-on, the crate or soft sided carrier can be placed on top of a wheeled carry-on sized suitcase to move through the airport. Carry a pet photo, health certificate and acclimation paper if needed, telephone numbers for airlines, vets, anything associated with your destination, and tickets. Check ground transportation and destination weather.


Acclimate the dog to an airline approved carrier well in advance of the flight. The pet should be able to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Securely tape a plastic envelope or zip bag containing the dog's name, your name, address and contact information to the carrier. The dog should wear a snug but choke-proof collar with ID information or a microchip. A favorite toy, familiar bedding, and a sock or other item you have worn will comfort him.


Food and Water. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends not feeding solid food during the six hours prior to check-in but dogs under 16 weeks old must be given food/water if the trip is more than 12 hours. It's a 24 hour time frame for older pets with water every 12 hours. Flying dehydrates pets as well as people so it is better to give water before boarding even if the dog may soil the crate during flight. If shipping the dog, make sure the crate has a food and water bowl and attach a small zip lock bag of dry kibble to the crate or in the compartment on top. If flying with your dog, take food/treats, a plastic water bottle, a food dish, first aid kit, paper towels, and waste bags.


Health Certificate.  Ask your veterinarian or the (USDA) U.S. Department of Agriculture (844-820-2234) about "APHIS Travel With A Pet"[1] your destination state's requirements for rabies vaccination. Carry-on dogs do not need a health certificate but all shipped pets must have one attached to their documents. International travel requires proof of rabies vaccination and a health certificate signed by a U.S. government official.  Consulate or embassy information is available at the State Department.[2]


Some airlines won't ship a pet that has been sedated due to potential breathing difficulty. Only use a veterinarian approved sedative. If your dog is injured during the trip tell the airline and take the dog to a veterinarian right away. Get a copy of the paperwork with the date, time, and veterinarian's signature and send it to the airlines and the USDA.
You will have a greater sense of ease knowing that your pet is well cared for and you both are ready for almost anything. Enjoy your trip! 

*Footnote: Therapy dogs are NOT considered Service Dogs and are not allowed to fly inside the cabin. The LAW / RULES and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) DO NOT give therapy dogs the same status as SERVICE DOGS.  SERVICE DOGS/ANIMALS are the ONLY animals given the right to fly inside the cabin with their passenger/handler/trainer.

Copyright © 183r1905


Reference and Related Travel Information:

[1] APHIS Travel with A Pet     ~     [2] Embassy Information - U.S. Dept. of State



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