Did you know that according to a study by AAA, more than half of U.S. pet owners take their cats and dogs with them when they travel?
If you’re looking to get on the road or fly the skies with your canine companion or feline friend this long weekend, we’ve got tips to make the trip as smooth as possible.
Dogs shouldn’t roam in the car. The safest way for your dog to travel in the car is in a crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seatbelt or other secure means. Dog restraints or seat belts are useful for preventing your dog from roaming around the car and being a distraction to the driver, but they haven’t been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash.
Most cats aren’t comfortable traveling in cars, so for their safety as well as yours, keep them in a carrier. It’s important to restrain these carriers in the car so that they don’t bounce around and hurt your cat. Do this by securing a seat belt around the front of the carrier.
Leave the front seat for humans! Keep your pet in the back seat of the car. If an airbag deploys while your pet is in the passenger seat (even in a crate), it might injure your pet.
Remember to plan for pit stops. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners to stop every two to three hours for your pet to use the bathroom and get some exercise.
If your pet is very young, very old or not in good health, it’s best to leave the critter at home. Also, some breeds don’t travel well in cargo, such as snub-nosed dogs like pugs, which are prone to breathing difficulties. Many major airlines no longer allow such breeds to fly in the cargo hold.
Do some research first. Regulations and fees vary depending on airlines and whether your pet flies in the cabin or as checked baggage. Be sure to check an airline’s history of flying animals. Incidents of pets being lost, injured or dying have increased in recent years. Currently, about 15 major carriers provide monthly incident reports to the DOT, which list pet-related incidents.
Consider a pets-only airline. Pet Airways offers climate-controlled cabins outfitted with individual crates, and a flight attendant checks on the animals every 15 minutes. After landing, pets are given a bathroom break, and can be picked up by their owners at the airline’s Pet Lounge at participating airports.
Train (These tips apply to Amtrak which recently began allowing pets to travel with their owners on their trains)
Advance reservations are required for pet travel. To reserve a spot, call 800-USA-RAIL. The surcharge is $25, and pets are permitted to travel for stretches up to seven hours.
Your cat or dog must be 20 pounds or less and needs to travel in a soft carrier that will fit under the seat.
If your pet’s not used to travel, introduce the carrier at home with treats and toys. Practice carrier travel for short drives in the car so the pet is more relaxed when it’s time to hit the rails.
When you check in at Amtrak, you will be asked to sign a waiver agreeing that your pet is healthy and non-aggressive.