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Air Travel Tips with Pets

Contributed by the ASPCA, Companion Animal Services


To ensure that your pet has a safe and comfortable air trip, the ASPCA offers these tips.


Your Pet’s Health

  • Make an appointment at your pet’s veterinarian for a check-up, and discuss your plans to take your pet on a trip.
  • Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated no earlier than IO days before departure.
  • You must feed and offer water to your pet four hours before delivery to the airline.
  • Exercise him/her before putting the animal in the carrier.


The Flight

  • Make a reservation for your pet.
  • Book a direct flight if at all possible.
  • Make sure you have the necessary documentation; i.e. health certificates, international permits.
  • You must make a reservation for your pet! Most airlines limit the number of animals allowed per cabin.
  • For your pet’s safety and the safety of the passengers, make sure the crate is secure under the seat in front of you.
  • Make sure the crate is big enough for your pet to be comfortable.
  • Line the bottom of the crate with a towel to absorb any accidents.
  • Exercise the animal prior to putting him or her in the crate.
  • Let the person sitting next to you know that you have a pet. (They may be allergic and want to switch seats with someone else.)
  • For your pet’s safety and the safety of the passengers, make sure the crate is secure under the seat in front of you.
  • DO NOT take the pet out of the carrier. This is FAA law.
  • Bring food and water for the pet for long trips, and offer only after the airline food service is over.
  • Please respect fellow passengers.
  • If you’re traveling in hot weather or to a warm climate, book a night flight.


The Carrier

  • Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate. It should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit and change position comfortably. You can purchase such carriers from many pet supply stores and from airlines.
  • Write the words “LIVE ANIMAL” in letters no smaller than I ” high on the top of the crate and on at least one additional side. Use arrow indicators to prominently and boldly show the upright position of the carrier.
  • Write the name, address, and telephone number of the destination point of your pet, whether you are traveling with him or someone else is picking him up. Secure this information to the TOP of the carrier. Your pets should also be wearing identification tags on a collar (elastic for cats).
  • Line the crate bottom with some type of bedding – shredded paper or towels – to absorb accidents.
  • The crate must have two dishes, one for food and one for water, attached to the inside of the crate and easily accessible to airline personnel. Freeze the water so that it will not splash out during loading but will melt by the time the pet is thirsty.
  • Get your pet accustomed to the crate prior to the day of departure.
  • Do NOT lock the door on the crate. Make sure it is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open the crate in case of emergency. For trips longer than 12 hours, attach a plastic bag containing dry food on top of the carrier with feeding instructions for airline personnel.
  • Tranquilization is not recommended.

For a list of safety tips when your pet flies in the cargo hold, request our Air Travel Tips flyer.

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