Tis’ the Season for holiday travel! For some, travel equates to STRESS, so thinking about flying with an animal might feel overwhelming. The hustle and bustle of holiday travel, crowds, and unexpected delays are enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure. Add in navigating all that with an animal and you have an immediate recipe for feeling overwhelmed. This means that a complete guide to traveling with your dog is totally necessary!
Pet travel does not need to create more stress in your life. Having your furry companion by your side should do just the opposite! Especially if you’re traveling with a Service Animal since they are trained to be with you always and to keep you calm throughout your trip. If you’re interested in how to qualify your pet as a Psychiatric Service Animal, American Service Pets can help you to navigate the process seamlessly.
In a recent blog, I covered five dog travel myths and how to travel safely with your fur-baby. That’s also a great read! Our goal for you is to reduce travel anxiety. These PRO TRAVEL TIPS are meant to ensure adequate preparation, ultimate relaxation, and peace of mind.
Dogs weighing 20 lbs or less can fly with you inside a plane. Most airlines allow crated dogs to fly as checked bags in a temperature-controlled cargo hold. To fly with an animal in cargo, your airline will either have you drop them at a separate door or will have you check your dog’s crate at the counter with your other baggage.
Per ADA Regulations, Service Animals must be accommodated on all flights within the U.S and are allowed to fly with you without extra pet fees. Service Animals do not need to travel in a crate, but they do have to be on a leash. Service Animals do not count as a carry-on.
When making your travel arrangements, you must also make reservations for your dog. There are regulations on the number of animals permitted on each flight. Reservations for animals are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is always a good idea to verify that there will be space for your dog before booking your tickets. Early planning and good communication with the airlines can go a long way to ensure a smooth trip.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Most airlines consider pet carriers a personal or carry-on item (this applies to both hard and soft-sided carriers). You can board the aircraft with either a pet carrier and a personal item or a pet carrier and a carry-on bag.
Each airline establishes its company policies for what equipment and gear is allowed for Service Animals, including carry-on allowances and fees assessed for large equipment (like a kennel or crate) checked as baggage.
When you are flying with your dog, there are a few key steps you can take to prepare your pup in the hours before leaving for the airport.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): Small pets (and Service Animals) are allowed through the checkpoint. Please remove your pet from the carrying case and place the case through the X-ray machine. You should maintain control of your pet with a leash and remember to remove the leash when carrying your pet through the metal detector. Animal carriers will undergo a visual and physical inspection.
When flying with my Service Animal, I find it easier for us each to walk independently through airport metal detectors. Although this might not be something you’ve considered, it can reduce the time required to get through security. It helps avoid confusion or unnecessary alarms and is worth training for ahead of time.
If this is your first time traveling with your Service Animal or a pet, you can practice this skill by using your doorway at home for trial runs.
Due to an increase in the popularity of pet travel, most airports now have designated Pet Relief Areas for animals. Some have indoor and outdoor areas for pets, which makes it helpful if you have a layover or if fido decides he has performance anxiety and wants a more private space. But on that note, pet travel is considerably easier if your pet is not picky about where they do their business and can eliminate on command.
Tips to avoid being charged a cleaning fee:
In your planning process, leave time to make appropriate arrangements for your pet. It is the owner’s responsibility to verify the dog’s health and ability to fly.
Before traveling, you should ensure that your pet’s microchip information is up to date AND that your pet wears a collar tag with your updated home address and cell phone number.
Gather all the relevant records you need and pack them in your carry-on, where they are easily accessible. Each airline requires slightly different health records. Check the requirements at your point of origin and destination well in advance of your trip. Most airlines will require vaccinations, vaccination records, and health certificates for your animal. Often they don’t ask for them, but you have to be able to provide them when asked.
For travelers, this has been a year crowned by flight delays and looong lines at security. No one loves being rushed or running through the airport to catch your flight. Plan to be early with your pet because traveling with a pet will take you a little longer at security checkpoints. The extra time also allows you to visit the pet relief area and take a walk before your flight.
If your flight does get changed or delayed, the BEST way for you to get help is to be kind to airline employees. They receive the brunt of frustration from tired and grumpy passengers. A little kindness can go a long way. With the timing of any delay, consider if your pet needs food and water again before boarding. If the delay means your pet will miss a meal time, you may need to feed it and then make a trip to the pet relief area.
Once you arrive at your destination safely, rehydrate your pet by giving them plenty of water. Have fun making memories, and enjoy your trip!
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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