When a pet goes missing it creates a sick feeling in the pit of the owner’s stomach. LaGuardia airport is a bustling and busy public place that makes it nearly impossible to find a pet that escapes. Muji is a rescue cat traveling with her owner Taylor Le. As they stopped at a TSA checkpoint en route from New York to California, the kitty escaped and ran away. Airline travel can be confusing and stressful for humans, but animals have little idea about what is going on. The cat had found her way into the ceiling of the airport and there she remained for 11 days. A group of volunteers searched for the kitty and they found her on January 6, 2021. Miraculously she was returned to her owner.
The problem with pets and airlines
Another story about a cat named Jack who stowed away in the cargo area of an airplane after getting out of his crate didn’t have the same happy ending. By the time Jack was found, he was so malnourished that he didn’t survive. It’s a problem that must be addressed to prevent it from happening again. Pets depend on their owners for support and protection. They don’t have the ability to make wise decisions in a scary place that is filled with strangers and loud noises. Most are frightened and when they bolt in fear, their first instinct is to hide. No pet should ever go through this kind of traumatic experience.
How to safely travel via air with pets
It’s wise to leave your pet at home with competent family members when flying. Unnecessary flights put your cat or dog under a tremendous amount of stress. According to the Humane Society, they will be much happier at home in familiar surroundings. If it is unavoidable, there are some precautions that you can take to help ensure the safety of your pet, at least while you’re near them.
Know the risks in advance
There is no way to get around the fact that taking pets on airplanes is risky for them. Before you book a flight, you should consider all other options before subjecting your pet to the dangers of flight. Dogs and cats with short nasal passages have an increased risk of oxygen deprivation as well as heatstroke from flying. If your pet is boarded in a cargo area he or she will be out of your sight. You will have no control over how the pet is handled or treated. If you still decide that your pet must fly with you, here are some tips to help make him safer
Ask about boarding in the cabin
If your dog or cat is small in size, it is possible that you will be allowed to take him into the cabin. It will cost an additional fee. This arrangement must be made well in advance of the flight. There are certain size requirements so you may need to ask for clarification from the airport staff. Learn about all rules and regulations as they pertain to you and your pet. These will be different from one airline to another. A few other questions to ask include
- Number of pets allowed
- Documentation/immunization requirements
- Carrier requirements
- Restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold
Taking your pet through airport security
Pets should be secured in an approved carrier when moving through the airport. When taking your pet through airport security, regardless of the size, the animal should wear a secure harness in case there is a need to take him out of his carrier. This applies to dogs and cats. You will be required to move the pet out of the carrier when it goes through the X-ray system. This is the time when pets are the most likely to bolt and hide in a spot where you can’t find them.
Avoid cargo storage whenever possible
Pets carried in cargo storage are subjected to extreme hot and cold temperatures. They may be handled roughly and the ventilation in the area may be poor. Some animals die or get lost on airlines every year. Some are also injured severely. It’s wise to check on the track record of the airline you’re using in advance to find out if there have been any prior incidents with pet safety. Whenever possible schedule direct flights so there is less possibility of errors or delays in transfers to get your pet off the plane. Arrange to travel on the same flight as your pet. Make sure that your pet’s collar is secure so it doesn’t get caught on any protrusions from carrier doors or crates.
Firmly attach a travel label to your pet’s carrier. The label should include your name, address, and telephone number. Other information you should include is your final destination and a contact person to call when the flight arrives. Make sure that your pet is clean and groomed. Acclimate your pet to the carrier or crate a month in advance of the trip to help lessen the stress. Feed and water your pet 4 hours before the flight, and avoid any further food or drink after this time. Pet travel recommends putting the name of your pet on the crate or carrier. You should also carry a leash to allow your pet some time to walk around safely before being boarded on the flight. Remove the leash from your pet before he is taken to the area of the plane he will be situated in.
Flying with a pet is not recommended, but there are some times when it is unavoidable. If you find yourself in these circumstances, it’s best to prepare at least a month in advance to get your beloved pet ready and prepared for the adventure. Follow the tips we’ve provided to avoid the tragedy of losing your pet in the airport, or worse.