Protecting Your Pets in Cargo: Travel Safety Tips

March 9, 2010 | By Gabrielle Jonas | Category: Travel | 20 comments
Tags: care & safety, travel

Check out our quick tips to keep your pet secure in cargo.

Consider catching an in-flight movie, munching on a bag of tiny pretzels, and maybe even grabbing a catnap at 30,000 feet above the ground. For humans flying coach, passing the time in the air can be an enjoyable experience. But pets traveling cargo may be pardoned for being less than enthusiastic.

In transit, pets who fly cargo are confined to crates, jostled, subjected to extreme temperatures, inconsistent ventilation, and strange smells as well as the screech and roar of engines.

For the final segment in our ongoing Zootoo Travel Safety series, here are more valuable tips for keeping your pet safe when he has to fly cargo.

Skip the medication. Unfortunately, medicating the terror away is no longer an option for pets.

"Giving tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air can increase the risk of heart or respiratory problems," the American Veterinary Medical Association warns. Tranquilizers also dull a pet's ability to brace himself during bumpy flights, and injuries may ensue.

Confirm your pet's safety in transit. Pet owners who are riding along in the cabin can monitor their pet's welfare throughout the journey. Before boarding, owners can and should confirm that their pets have been loaded and reconfirm at boarding with the captain, either directly or via a note to the flight attendant.

If the plane taxis or sits on the runway for an extended period of time, or the aircraft experiences ventilation issues, owners can ask the captain to check the temperature in the cargo hold. "If the delay is long, insist that your pet be removed," Mark A. Blanton, president and chief executive officer of Atlantic Airlines, a planned Florida regional airline, advises on his website.

If the flight suffers from long layovers or extreme temperatures, pet owners can insist pets be unloaded, and retrieve them at baggage claim. If need be, pet owners can cite United States Department of Agriculture regulations that prohibit animal shipment from or to locations where temperatures are below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed, many airlines have their own temperature-related restrictions.

Research airport dog parks. If connecting between flights, owners should walk their dogs before the plane takes off again, and many airports now have dog parks just outside their terminals. The website supplies directions to those pet parks.

Plan ahead when your pet flies solo. When a pet has to fly without its owner in the plane, it must travel as cargo. For those unaccompanied flights, planning becomes key. Because reservations do not exist for cargo travel, pets may have a long wait for an available flight. That's when pets are vulnerable to illness, injury or loss. Choosing priority or counter-to-counter shipping of a pet reduces his wait in the airport baggage room or on the tarmac, the AMVA says.

Most pet advocacy groups urge booking a direct flight for all air travel with pets, especially those traveling in cargo unaccompanied. "This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel," the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

Consider a pet travel service. "Ensure the animal is healthy enough to endure the stressful conditions and is checked on during the trip. An animal should never be shipped unaccompanied," the AWI says. If you can't go with your pet, look into hiring a pet travel service to coordinate all aspects of pickup, shipment and delivery.

Prepare your pet's crate. Owners should provide a crate big enough for the pet to turn around, but not so big that the pet can be bruised during a bumpy flight. A plastic bag containing dry food and feeding instructions on top of the crate is handy in case of delays.

A small bowl of frozen water inside the crate insures a supply of fresh water and prevents spills. Be careful to avoid ice cubes, which pose a choking hazard, as do toys and muzzles.

Pet insurance may be an option. Blanton, the CEO of Atlantic Airlines, offers up one final suggestion to get airport personnel to provide extra care. "Consider insuring your pet for $10,000," he says. "The amount of this coverage is minimal and it will mean that greater attention will be given to your pet." In other words, that fee will "buy" more oversight of your pet's welfare as it wends its way through the perils and pitfalls of airline transport.

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Comments (18)

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Denise L.

Denise L.
5 years ago

No matter how many improvements are made, I'd still want my furbaby with me. I'm the type who does not trust everyone with my dog & will only feel safe when she is with me.

Good Point | Reply ›


5 years ago

Before anyone jumps to are the facts:
There was only one death recorded in 2009 of a pet death in cargo with all
the animals flying last year. The airlines are very careful with people's
pets. The cargo section is temperature controlled and pressurized like the
cabin. Actually, the sounds of the engines put most animals to sleep. If you have any questions check out

Good Point | Reply ›

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