Are you considering flying to visit family or friends this year? Are you thinking that bringing your pet along for the ride would be a good idea? You may want to think again, as the skies are not as friendly to our pets as they are to us humans.
A recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed that more pets died on Delta flights last year than on any other airline. Records showed that 19 of the 35 air-travel-related pet deaths in 2011 took place in the luggage storage compartment of Delta planes. Delta representatives denied that any of the pets were mishandled and explained that several of the pets had medical problems. Three of the victims were French bulldogs, which many airlines refuse to transport because of the respiratory problems of these snub-nosed breeds. Delta also does not allow pets checked as baggage from May 15 through September 15, in order to avoid exposing them to extreme heat in the cargo hold. But according to the report, eight of the 19 deaths occurred during that time frame last year.
It’s not just Delta who is having trouble transporting pets. Last year, five pets died on American Airlines, four on Alaska Airlines, three on Continental, and two each on Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines, according to the report. In 2010, there were 14 puppies on an American Airlines flight flying from Oklahoma to Illinois. Seven of those puppies died after the flight was delayed during hot weather.
If you must travel with your pet, the best option is to have your pet with you in the cabin of the airplane. However, if your pet is over 11 inches tall or 15 pounds in weight, the only option left is for your pet to travel in the cargo hold.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you do not transport your pet by air unless absolutely necessary. If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips offered by the Humane Society:
• Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
• Always travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded into and unloaded from the cargo hold.
• If you are traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
• Fit your pet with a collar that can’t get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar—a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
• Affix a travel label to the carrier with your name, permanent address, and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
• Make sure that your pet’s nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier’s door, holes, and other crevices.
• Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his or her stress during travel.
• Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel.
• Do not feed your pet for four to six hours prior to air travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet’s kennel. A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.
• Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
• Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
• When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.
Most pet owners love their pets so much that they want to bring them along even on vacation. After reading about all the accidental pet deaths on airlines, my advice would be to leave your furry friend at home unless its absolutely necessary to bring them along.