Recent American Airlines tragedy puts focus on pet air travel safety
flickr photo courtesy of bravoinsd
Many hotels and rentals tout themselves as pet friendly, and there are usually a few relatives or friends who are welcoming to their guests' pets, too. With that part of the travel planning planned somewhat effortlessly, there's always the bigger issue if you're not driving to your destination: the thought of putting your pooch into a portable pet carrier and into the cargo area of an aircraft, if they are not welcome in the cabin of the plane.
For most folks, it's not a common thing to do. But, if it's an extended, far away vacation or a cross-country move and driving isn't possible, flying with your pets may be the only option.
Several puppies died this week on an American Airlines flight from Tulsa to Chicago. Cause of death for the puppies will be known once an investigation and necropsy reports are completed. The U.S. Department of Transportation releases reports throughout each year with regard to the number of animal deaths that occur while being transported via air. Read the most current report.
The tragedy that occurred begs the question: what are the guidelines for animals if you're considering flying them someplace? How can pet deaths be prevented when riding aboard an aircraft? Who is in charge of dictating how animals are cared for while aboard a plane?
The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 regulates transport of dogs and cats in aircraft cargo bays. It was put into place to regulate the treatment of animals and is enforced by the USDA. A factsheet from the USDA's Animal Health Inspection Service can help you understand what guidelines are in place.
First and foremost, your pet should be healthy enough to do so—and their temperament should lend itself well to flying. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, some airlines also require an acclimation certificate—a document filled out by a federally accredited veterinarian stating that your pet is well enough to travel and that they are not showing any signs of illness.
Flying early in the morning or later at night—when temperatures are cooler, can mitigate the risk of heat-related death and illness. Flat-faced pets, like pugs, bulldogs, and Japanese Chins, have a higher risk of death due to heat-related issues. The AVMA gives more great tips and things to consider about airline travel with your animal here.
Are there alternatives to pets flying in the cargo area? As it turns out, there are two airlines that pet-friendly: Companion Air, where the pets ride in the cabin with their owners, and Pet Airways. Other major airlines also allow certain pets to fly on board. Check out Petfinder's 2010 list of most pet-friendly airlines.
Lorrie Shaw is the owner of Professional Pet Sitting as well as a regular pets contributor on AnnArbor.com. She also blogs frequently on More Than Four Walls and enjoys finding solutions regarding pet wellness and behavior as well as social issues related to pets. She can be reached via e-mail.