Many pet owners will be faced with the decision of whether or not to bring their dog along as they travel. It may be very tempting to bring your best friend along with you on your travels, but each dog’s particular temperament, as well as any illnesses or physical impairments, need to be taken into consideration when making travel arrangements for your pet. A pre-trip visit with the vet is advisable for any owner traveling long distances with their dog; just a quick check to make sure they have all their vaccinations and assess their overall health can avoid unwanted issues. If you have any doubts whether or not your pet is fit to travel you should consult your veterinarian.
If your dog is able to endure air travel without difficulty, you will need to devote some time to prepare him/her for the journey ahead. Dogs that can comfortably fit within a crate of 23″ x 13″ x 9″ can be taken on board the plane with you, but larger dogs will need to be placed within the cargo hold on the underside of the aircraft. If your dog is not crate trained you will need to get them used to the idea of being in the container for prolonged periods of time, especially if your trip is taking you cross country.
The best way to get your dog used to the crate is to gradually introduce them to it, never forcing them to go inside, instead associating the crate with items they enjoy such as a favorite treat, toy or placing them inside for meal time. You also need to make sure that you have the proper sized crate for your animal, they should be able to get up and turn around inside; a crate that is too small can be uncomfortable and make the dog aggravated, while a crate that is too large may encourage the dog to relieve themselves at one end of the crate while lounging in the other.
Crates containing larger dogs are not accepted on certain flights, and while this information is different from carrier to carrier, here are a few basic guidelines:
- Pets not accepted on flights longer than 12 hours in duration.
- Kennels must be constructed of wood, metal, plastic or any similar, durable material that is leak proof and escape proof; collapsible kennels are not accepted.
- The crate must have ventilation on both sides.
- Kennels must have a water container with outside access for filing.
- There are limitations to the number of checked pets per customer – I have found this is usually two.
- Pets will not be accepted when temperatures extremes of over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit exist at any point on itinerary.
- Weight requirements – usually 100 lbs. is the max combined weight for dog and kennel.
- Kennel sizes depend on what type of aircraft you will be flying in, commuter planes will generally not allow anything larger than 29″ x 53″.
- Crates must be properly labeled on outside, with tags all of your contact information and any identifying information for your dog.
Be advised that each airline has its own specific set of regulations regarding breed restrictions, and unfortunately, many airlines do not allow Bully breeds and/or brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds dogs. Stub nosed dogs are often banned because of increased difficulty breathing at higher altitudes – the cargo cabin is not pressurized in the same manner as the passenger cabin, and can cause respiratory stress in brachycepahlic dogs. Continental, United Airlines, America West, Alaska/Horizon and American Airlines ban Pit Bull breeds from flying. These airlines also reserve the right to deny service to any dog that they deem to display any of the major characteristics of a Pit Bull, or are believed to show aggressive behavior. Fees for placing your approved pet in cargo differ from airline to airline, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $150 for a one-way flight. This space can sometimes be purchased ahead of your departure date, and it is advisable to call ahead and request space for your pet.
The following airlines accept Pit Bulls and other Bully breeds (brachycephalic breeds are still discouraged/prohibited from flying):
- US Airways
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you do not transport your pet by air unless absolutely necessary. As mentioned previously, the cargo hold where pets are placed are not designed in the same way as a passenger cabin and have less resistance to the changes in air quality affected by altitude. These cargo holds are not made for life support and many animals continue to be injured or killed on commercial flights each year due to extreme temperatures, poor ventilation, lack of oxygen and rough handling by baggage handlers. Since 2005 all North American based airlines are required to publish statistics on companion animal incidents taking place while the animals were in their care either in the cargo hold, waiting to board or awaiting pickup. You can see all the statistics for 2007 broken down at Airline Pet Incidents 2007.
Keeping your pet safe in the car is not only important to his/her health, but yours as well. A loose dog in the car with you can cause an accident, or be seriously injured in an accident, and it is always best to be sure they are in a safe position in the cab with you (never put a dog in your truck bed) while you are focused on driving. It is important to always have your pet restrained while in a moving vehicle, and there are a number of products on the market that can help to keep your pet safe. Dog restraint devices for cars can be anything from placement in a carrier/crate on the floor or a restraining harness, which is basically a doggy seatbelt that attaches to the already existing restraint devices in your car; these can be found at all pet supply stores. Canine restraint devices should only be used in the backseat of the vehicle due to they way airbags are designed. Airbags were created with adults in mind, and could seriously injure or kill your pet in an accident; the same back seat rule applies for children.
Another way to keep your pet safe while driving is to never open the windows all the way during your ride. Dogs that have never been known to jump out of the car can have a momentary lapse in judgment when they see someone on the street they need to greet, or sense an unfamiliar smell. Objects from the road can hit your pet’s head if it is out the window, or your dog could spill from the window during a quick maneuver or accident. Cracking the window for your dog a little bit will fulfill their urge to sample the wonderfully different smelling air, without risking injury to them.
Keep in mind that your dog overheats much faster than a you, especially if the weather is sunny or the dog has a dark colored coat. Crack the window or keep the air directly on your pet to keep him cool during hot weather travel. If you are going on an extended trip, you may want to consider installing sun shades or use a vehicle with tinted windows in the back. Proper hydration also decreases the risks from overheating, and you should make sure to have a portable water bowl in the car, along with at least a gallon of fresh water to make sure your dog is getting enough fluids throughout your drive.
Organization is key on long trips. Make sure to place your dog’s items like food, leashes, doggy bags, treats, favorite toys, etc. in an area easily accessible when you make stops along the way. A good rule of thumb is to let your dog out with you each time you stop for food or gas, and have them eat with you if you are eating. One of my absolute favorite places to stop on long drives (my partner and I have driven across the country twice now with our two Pits) is Sonic, and I have found them to be very Pit Bull friendly:) Allowing your dog to get out at rest stops with you will give you both a chance to stretch your legs, and avoid some of the boredom that comes along with long distance driving.
And finally, never, ever leave your dog locked in the car alone! Even in low sunlight and average temperatures, the inside temperature of a car can quickly, reach life threatening levels. Air quality inside a locked car deteriorates rapidly, and this is especially a concern in smaller vehicles. Your pet can get overheated and have difficulties breathing in just a matter of minutes on a sunny day. If you are going somewhere that your dog is not welcomed, either make arrangements to leave him at home, or find a local kennel that would be able to board the dog for a short period of time while you are traveling.
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