Face it; our four-legged friends are increasingly considered as much a part of the family as Mom, Dad, and the kids. Pampered pooches and fussed over felines have as many toys as any other member of the household. And why not? They give us so much in return.
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that pets aren’t just fun things to have around; they actually improve the health of family members. Research indicates the benefits are most marked in older family members, especially those who have suffered loneliness after the loss of a spouse, and those who have high blood pressure or several other medical conditions. For active seniors, dogs also make great walking and jogging companions. Of course, good hunting dogs are a must for outdoorsmen of any age. No wonder we like to take our pets along when we travel.
If you’re among the thousands of travelers who bring their four-footed family members along on holidays involving plane travel, you might be in for some surprises.
Before you set out for the airport, do a bit of homework. Just because things went smoothly last time Fido or Scare-D Cat took a flight doesn’t mean the same rules currently apply.
Some airlines have made the decision to stop carrying pets on any flight. Air Canada is leading the pack, thanks to a lawsuit that arose after a four-year-old dog named Silas passed away on one of the carrier’s flights.
To cut the story short, as of September 18, 2006, pets are no longer allowed in the cabin of Air Canada’s aircraft unless they are certified, professionally-trained service animals assisting customers with disabilities. Further, as of July 15, 2007, pets will no longer be carried in the baggage compartment. (Check Air Canada’s website for exceptions.)
Given the airline industry’s pattern of copied behaviour, expect to see other carriers following suit.
There are things you can do before arriving at your destination to ensure you and Spot or Fluffy have a safe and stress-free experience. Here are a few suggestions:
Before booking a flight:
1) Perhaps the most important question to consider concerns the possible death of your pet while en route. Even under ideal conditions, the stress of air travel can be too much for some animals. Are you willing to subject your pet to that risk?
2) If Scamp is still destined to fly, obtain a written copy (often available on airline websites) of the airline’s policy regarding animal travel. Read the fine print. Be sure you understand everything in the document and are comfortable with the conditions set out.
Before heading to the airport:
1) Make sure you have the proper transportation container for your pet before heading to the airport. Check the airline’s policy for information.
2) Be sure to have all the appropriate health papers available at check-in. Note that what is deemed “appropriate” documentation varies between airlines and countries of destination. Again, do your homework by checking with airlines and the subject country’s embassy to ensure you have the correct documents.
3) Be sure to have enough food and water in your pet’s kennel to last them through the journey. If your animal is in cargo, you won’t be able to drop by with extra treats during the flight.
4) Ask your vet about mild sedatives, motion sickness drugs and other medications that may increase the animal’s comfort during the trip.
Keep these things in mind, and everyone is sure to have a holiday to howl and purr about.