Pet Travel Safety Guide

Dog checking for safety tips

Advice on how to ensure the wellbeing of your pet throughout transit by land, air, or sea.

Pick the mode of transportation that will keep your pet safe and happy. One example is that your dog might be better at home rather than with you on your trip unless you plan to spend a great deal of time with it. The best environment for a cat is a comfortable, familiar home.

But if you’ve determined that bringing your pet along is the best option, here are some guidelines to keep everyone happy and healthy on the trip.

By car

What’s the ideal spot in the car for your furry friend?

Dogs shouldn’t be left to roam around in the car

If you must take your dog on a road trip, make sure to tie the cage to the vehicle using a seat belt or another reliable method. Dog seat belts and other forms of restriction can be helpful in reducing distractions for drivers by keeping dogs from moving freely around the car, but there is no evidence that they really protect dogs in the case of a collision.

Cats should be in carriers

Keep your cat in a carrier at all times while in the car for both of your protection. Keep your cat safe by securing the carrier in the car to prevent it from moving about and getting harmed. Specifically, fasten a safety belt across the front of the carrier.

Front seats should be reserved for humans

Your pet should ride in the backseat. It’s not a good idea to transport your pet in the passenger seat, even in a crate, in case the airbag deploys and hurts your pet.

Heads inside at all times!

When traveling with pets, remember to always close the car door behind you. Pets with their heads out the window risk getting hit by flying debris or becoming ill from the sudden rush of cold air into their lungs. Under no circumstances should a pet be transported in the open back of a pickup truck.

Take plenty of pit stops

Make regular pit stops to let your pet out. However, your pet should never be allowed out of the vehicle without a collar, identification tag, and leash.

Travel with a human buddy

You should have a friend or family member take turns driving and caring for the pet when appropriate. You might rest easy knowing that a trusted friend or family member is keeping an eye on your pets while you enjoy the comforts of rest breaks.

Never leave your pet unattended in a car

Though it may seem like a little amount of time, never leave your pet in a vehicle unattended, even for a pit stop. When it’s 72 degrees outdoors, the temperature inside your car may reach 116 degrees in just an hour. This poses a major risk, so keep an eye on the thermostat. On a day when the outside temperature is 85 degrees, the interior temperature of your vehicle may reach 102 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, even if the windows are cracked wide. If you’re delayed for even 30 minutes, your vehicle might reach 120 degrees, causing permanent organ damage or death to your pet.

It’s important to know what to do if you come across a pet that’s been left in a hot car.

Share the message that it’s never okay to leave a pet in a hot car by printing off our Hot Car flyer (PDF) and displaying it in visible locations or giving it to your friends, family, and colleagues.

Every time you leave your pet in a car, you are implicitly inviting pet (and vehicle) thieves into your home, which is a risk that exists all year round.

By airplane

Carefully consider your alternatives before scheduling a flight for your dog.

Air travel for pets has its risks

Before opting to fly with your pet, you should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. Dogs and cats with flat faces (known medically as “brachycephalic”) are at a heightened risk of injury during flight. Due to the narrowness of their nasal passages, they are particularly susceptible to hypoxia and overheating.

Think about the many options that exist besides flying. Most of the time, driving is the best option if you want to take your pet on a trip with you. If you can’t take your car, leaving your pet with a pet sitter or in a boarding kennel is generally for the best. However, there may be instances when it is not possible, and you will have to consider the pros and cons of flying.

Choose the cabin when flying with your pet

If flying with your pet is your only alternative, research whether or not they are allowed in the passenger cabin. For an extra cost, most airlines will let you bring a cat or small dog inside the cabin with you. However, you should contact the airline in advance since there are restrictions on how many animals can travel in the cabin. Make sure your dog isn’t too big or too little for the allowed dimensions before moving it. If you feel lost in the maze of rules and laws around transporting your pet by air, there are firms that could assist you.

Ask these questions if your pet is flying in the cabin

Make sure you ask the airline representative the following questions when you call:

  • Is it possible to bring a small dog or cat on board with you?
  • What are the airline’s health and vaccination requirements for bringing your pet on board?
  • Does the airline have special carrier requirements? It’s possible that your pet might be more comfortable in a soft-sided carrier, however certain airlines will only accept specific types of soft-sided carriers.
  • Does the airline have any rules on carrying pets in the cargo hold if you can’t bring them with you in the cabin?

Take precautions when going hrough airport security

Carriers for pets must be checked for security at the same time their owners are. Make sure your pet is properly tethered outside the carrier so it may remain there while the carrier is x-rayed, or ask for additional screening that does not need you to remove your pet from the carrier.

Keep in mind the dangers of flying your pet in a cargo hold

Even while the vast majority of animals safely make the trip in the cargo hold of an airline, you should know that some animals are tragically lost, wounded, or killed every year. Conditions such as extreme heat or cold, lack of air circulation, and hard handling are frequently to fault.

Consumers in the United States should research the track record of any airline they’re considering flying with a pet in the cargo hold on before making a reservation.

Follow these tips for flying in the cargo hold

If your pet is one of the many that must fly with you, but in the cargo hold, you may boost the odds of a safe journey by keeping a few things in mind.

  • Please take direct flights. You won’t have to worry about your pet being lost in the mix during an aircraft transfer or having to wait around for them to be unloaded.
  • When feasible, travel with your pet on the same aircraft. If you want to see your pet being loaded into or unloaded from the cargo hold, you should ask the airline about doing so.
  • Make sure the pilot and at least one flight attendant knows you have a pet in the cargo hold before you get on the plane. The captain may take additional safety measures if he or she is aware that animals are on board.
  • Avoid putting brachycephalic pets like Pekingese dogs, bulldogs, and Persian cats in the hold at all costs.
  • Book flights that can keep you comfortable in the hottest or coldest months. In the summer, flights in the early morning or late evening are preferred, while in the winter, afternoon flights are the way to go.
  • Collars that can become stuck in pet carrier doors should be avoided. Attached to the collar should be both a permanent identity tag providing your name, number, address, and a temporary travel ID bearing an alternate number or address at which you or a contact person can be approached.
  • A label with your name, number, permanent address, ultimate destination, and where you or an alternative contact can be found as soon as the flight arrives should be attached to the carrier’s luggage.
  • Nails should be trimmed so that your pet doesn’t get caught in the carrier’s door or other openings.
  • Start acclimating your pet to the travel carrier a couple of weeks before your departure. Because of this, they will have a less stressful trip.
  • Avoid giving your pet tranquilizers unless your physician recommends it. Make sure your vet knows you need an air travel prescription.
  • Feeding your pet within four to six hours of departure is not recommended. You may, however, provide them with very limited amounts of water. Add ice cubes to the water dish inside your pet’s cage or box. (If the water dish is too full, it will overflow, which is quite inconvenient.)
  • Avoid taking your pet on a flight during the summer or any major holiday. During times of high travel volume, your pet is more likely to be subjected to hard handling.
  • Keep a recent photo of your pet on you at all times. In the unfortunate event that your pet becomes separated from you on the flight, having a photo of them can greatly aid airline staff in their search efforts.
  • As soon as you get at your location, open the container and inspect your pet in a secure area. Whenever you see any abnormal behavior in your pet, it is important to get them checked out by a professional right away. Get the test results in writing, with the time and date stamped on it.

Speak up about unusual sights

If your animal or someone else’s is mistreated at an airport, don’t be shy about filing a complaint. Mistreatment should be reported both verbally and in writing to the section manager involved.

By ship

Only a select few cruise lines, and often only on ocean voyages, allow pets (with the exception of service animals). While some airlines do have pet-friendly rooms, the vast majority of carriers only provide kennels. Get in touch with the cruise line in advance to learn more about its pet-friendly regulations and which ships provide kennels. If you have to keep your pet in the ship’s kennel, take extra care to keep it dry and give it lots of attention.

By train

Some pets are now welcome on some trains operated by Amtrak, and service animals are welcome on all routes. The Humane Society of the United States backs legislation now before Congress (H.R. 674) that would make it legal for Amtrak to allow travelers to carry their cherished pets on specific trains. Some less-major U.S. railroads could allow pets on board. Traveling with dogs is common on several European railways. At most stops, travellers are on their own to take care of their dogs, including feeding and exercise.

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