Take precautions when traveling with your pet


June 12, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

We're moving cross country and need to know the best way to move our dog. My husband and his brother will be driving a moving van, while I will be flying with our two small children.

Our dog is a 3-year-old black Lab, and we've heard so many horror stories about air travel that we wonder if we should risk it. And yet my husband isn't too excited about traveling with a dog in the middle of the front seat for 3,000 miles. What would you recommend?

Although air travel for dogs is not without risk, you can greatly reduce the chance of a catastrophe by following some safety tips:

* Choose a direct flight if you can, even if it means driving to a bigger airport. Pets are cargo to airlines, and as such can easily miss the connecting flight.

* Avoid peak travel periods such as around holidays, when traffic is heavy and airport staff are pushed to the limits. You'll probably get better service for your pet on a lighter day.

Flying with a human "watchdog" is the best plan of all for your pet (if you can manage your two small children and a dog in a busy airport). And it's cheaper, too, since it usually costs less to -- transport an animal as excess baggage than as air freight.

Those who fly with dogs often -- such as dog-show exhibitors -- know the importance of having an advocate for the animal on board. These people don't trust that their dog has been safely loaded or has made the connection. They insist on confirmation, and they don't take "I'm sure he's OK" as an answer.

Of course, the airline isn't the only one responsible for your pet's safety -- you have a role to play, too. Prepare your pet early for the flight by buying a shipping crate from the airline or a pet supply store and getting it acquainted with the confinement. Most experienced dog people use crates made of high-impact plastic, such as the Vari Kennel or Sky Kennel, and look for a snug, safe fit, with just enough room for the dog to stand up and turn around. Your dog's collar -- buckle-style, not choke -- should be in good repair, and she should be carrying a tag with current phone numbers on it in case she slips away.

Your dog will need a health certificate a few days before the flight. That's also a good time to ask your vet about tranquilizers -- they usually aren't recommended, but your vet may feel they will benefit your dog. And call the airline early to find out their policies and to reserve space in the cargo hold. (Because no fresh air enters the hold during the flight, there is a limit on the number of animals on each plane.)

For a complete list of federal regulations regarding pets and air travel, write for the free booklet "Air Travel for Your Dog or Cat." Send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to the Air Transportation Association of America, Publications Unit, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004-1707.

If you decide to send your pet with your husband instead, write for a copy of "Touring With Towser," a booklet containing more than 7,000 lodgings that welcome pets. It's available for $3 from Quaker Professional Services/"Touring With Towser," 585 Hawthorne Court, Galesburg, Ill. 61401.

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