Pets Can Fly Safely If You Prepare

Flying with your pet is something most of us do not even think about, but once in a while there comes a time, when it is necessary.

Pets can fly safely if you prepare in advance.

If our pet is small enough to fit under a seat, while in a carrier, we feel a wee bit more comfortable, but when it comes to putting our pet in the cargo hold, fear sets in.

Statistics tell us that about 30 pets per year are either lost or die while traveling in an airplane, granted considering the thousands that are shipped, it is considered good.

However, if you are like me, that is 30 pets too many.

I don’t know how I would handle a death of one of my pets lost in transport.

For now we will just concentrate on taking our pets on an airplane, with the knowing that all will be well, when we arrive at our appointed destination.

The first step is making certain we follow the “rules” and do everything we can to assure our pets safety.

The first thing is to call the airline you are using to make certain they will take pets. Since 9/11 many airlines will not take pets either in the coach or in the cargo hold.

So the important thing is to call and check.

If they, do you must abide by all the rules and regulations, which I will try and give you as accurately as I can.

The FAA requires that you have a health certificate signed by your vet that verifies your pet is healthy and can fly. The certificate cannot be more than 10 days old though I am told some airlines will allow up to 30 days. All I can say is “check and double check” as it is a FAA requirement and not one required by most of the airlines.

By all means book a “non-stop” flight if at all possible even if you have to delay your flight for several hours or a day.

A layover can be detrimental to your pet and definitely to your nerves, if it is in the cargo hold.

Plan on arriving at the airport at least 2 hours ahead of schedule as you do not know who you will be dealing with and what problems might occur. Personal interpretation of the rules depends on the person you are dealing with and may take some time.

Certain breeds should not fly in the cargo hold due to breathing difficulties, they are: Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Boxers, Chow Chows, Lhapsa Apsos, Pekes, Pugs, ShihTzus along with Himalayan and Persian cats.

Animals that are to be put in the cargo hold should not be sedated due to possible breathing problems. Check with your vet to see if that would apply to animals in the coach with you (I have a vision of one of my cats howling in carrier while we are flying coach.)

Pets have to be 8 weeks or older and have to be weaned at least for 5 days if going as cargo.

If you are shipping 2 pets, they must be of the same species, weigh no more than 20 lbs. each and be between 8 weeks and 6 months old.

The animals must be able to stand up, turn around and lay down in a natural position in the crate..

If the pet is going to ride with you it can be in a soft-sided carrier as long as it is ventilated on two sides and water repellent.

Most airlines allow one pet in a cabin. However, a seeing-eye dog or a service dog is not counted as “the one dog.”

If your pet is allowed on board with you, it is necessary to carry it through the x-ray check point and then put back into the carrier.

At no time while you and your pet are in the plane are you allowed to remove the pet, from the carrier.

In case of an emergency you are not allowed to give the pet any oxygen.

If your pet is going to be traveling in the cargo hold there is certain criteria that must be followed:

  • The crate must be of strong fiber glass or plastic construction (call airline for their requirements) as each has different rules. Do not get a crate TOO big or TOO small. Think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears where everything was “just right.” Check with airline to see if they have regulation crates for sale.
  • The crate door must latch securely, but not be locked. Use nylon cords with snaps on each end to secure the door. Wrap it as extra security around the crate, It will work as a pull if you have to drag the crate later on or as an extra leash for the pet.
  • Attach a canvas bag by use of nuts and bolts to outside of crate to hold water and food.
  • Attach water and food dishes by the same means to the inside of crate in case of delays and the animal needs to be fed. Do not put food or water in the crate.
  • The bottom of the crate must have crumbled newspapers or disposable bedding to catch waste products. Blankets made of synthetic materials are also a good idea as they are lightweight, can be scrunched up by your pet to make a comfortable bed and are easy to clean after.
  • No toys should be in the crate, but something with your scent is acceptable.
  • Insure pet for $10,000, this is the advice I have seen on the Internet. However, I have searched high and low and cannot find a company in the United States that is listed on the "net" that offers Pet Life Insurance. In the United Kingdom there are many.

    My suggestion is to talk to your insurer and see if they have a policy or can direct you to a source. I am sorry I could not find a source.

  • Be certain you have several copies of your pet’s health certificate and list of shots. Attach one copy to crate in plastic ziplock bag (secure it well.) Also put in you flight schedule, phone numbers to contact you or someone else in case a problem occurs
  • Write “LIVE ANIMAL” many places on the crate. Use fluorscent tape to decorate the crate. Do something to make it stand out so you can recognize it on the tarmac. Write “UP” and an Arrow on it.

    Above the door write “Do Not Open” as sometime handlers like to open doors and pet the dogs.

    Put your pet’s name on the crate.

    It would not hurt to put “Owner on Board this Flight,” too.

  • Secure a picture of the pet on the crate and carry several with you.
  • Check several times with your airline to see that you have done everything to their specifications and that the rules have not changed (they can, you know, on a daily basis.)

    Unfortunately, consistency in dealing with several different people sometimes changes the rules as it depends on their interpretation of them.

  • Now YOU get a chance to assert yourself. Stay as long as you can at the terminal window to see that your crate is put on board. When asked to board the plane ask the person who is telling you to board to check and see if your pet has been put on board (even if you know it has been.)

    If they cannot, ask to talk to the Captain of your plane or ask the attendant to give the Captain a note and have him confirm that your pet has been boarded.

    If there are delays in take off that seem extreme ask the Captain to check on your dog. If it is hot and stuffy in your cabin, think of how hot it must be in the hold. Ask the Captain to ask the ground crew to open the hold doors, if the delay is prolonged.

    Keep reminding anyone you can that “your pet” is in the cargo hold and you are worried about it. Be nice, stay calm, but be a pest if necessary.

  • Do not feed your pet for at least 6 hours prior to flight time, water is okay. Have food available on the crate in case of a delay.
  • Most airlines charge about $80.00 for one way trips. Always buy a ROUNDTRIP TICKET FOR YOUR PET at time of departure. Pet tickets must be purchased at the airport. Make reservations ahead by dealing with the airline directly and not a travel agent.
  • Weight restrictions are usually no more than 100 lbs.
  • There are several ways to ship your pet, cargo is the least expensive, there is something called “counter-to-counter which is a little more expensive.

    My understanding is that the pet stays at the check in counter until just before flight time and then is put on board the cargo hold. My one fear would be that they would “forget.”

  • By law, pets are not to be shipped if the temperature is 45 degrees or lower either at point of departure or at point of landing. The same is true with a higher temperature if it is 85 degrees or warmer at point of departure or at point of landing the pet cannot be shipped.
  • If you are flying in the warm season, fly only in the morning any other time the hold has had a chance to warm up and give out heat.

    If flying in the cold season fly mid afternoon as the hold has had a chance to warm up some, however, be careful your pet’s life is dependent on you.

    If I were going to ship one of my pets I do believe I would hire a professional pet transporter. They know the rules and all the ins and outs of shipping pets. It may cost a few dollars more, but my pets are worth it, aren’t yours?

    I found one transporter that sounded very reliable on the Internet and has offices in many cities throughout the United States. They have been in business for over 20 years and transport cats, dogs, birds and horses.

    I have never had the opportunity to use them, but I feel they are worth a check into if you are flying your pet anywhere. You can find them at

    There are others I am certain; do some research on the Internet for someone near you.

    In searching the Internet for regulation crates for shipping your pet, I found only one source after many tries, using many different words.

    was the only source I could find.

    I wish you and your pet well if you are flying. Have a pleasant journey and be safe