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Traveling with Your Pet

ASPCA, Companion Animal Services

Traveling can be highly stressful, both for you and your pet. But with a little thoughtful preparation, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everybody.

Traveling with Your Pet


The first step to planning your journey is to think carefully about how the pet will be traveling. The mode of transport will determine the kind of pet carrier you use. If you are flying and your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin with you, you should use a soft-sided carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you and that has been approved by the airline for in-cabin use. If the pet is too large to accompany you in the cabin, she will have to travel in the cargo hold. For this you will need a USDA-approved shipping crate. If you are traveling by car, you may use any sort of carrier – wire mesh, hard plastic or soft-sided. Some of the soft-sided models have wheel safety straps that can accommodate car seatbelts.

Whatever kind of pet carrier you use, your pet should be able to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in it. Do not attempt to cram him or her in too small a space. The carrier must have ample ventilation. This is assured by the mesh panels in soft-sided carriers.

Next, you should familiarize your pet with the carrier. To associate the carrier with positive experience, place a favorite toy or object in it and praise and reward your pet each time she ventures in. Do not leave the pet confined in the carrier.

For your pet’s comfort, line the carrier with shredded paper, a towel or blanket. Absorbent liners come with the soft-sided bags and are required by airlines for in-cabin use.

If you are traveling by plane, you will need to make a reservation and purchase a ticket for your pet. Next, you should contact your vet to arrange a pre-flight check-up. All animals traveling by plane must have a record of inoculation and a health certificate no more than ten days old. If you are traveling outside the continental United States, you’ll need to find out local regulations from an embassy or tourist board.

If your pet is flying in the cargo hold, write the words “LIVE ANIMAL” on the top and sides of the crate and attach two dishes to the inside for food and water. Tape a ziplock bag of dry food to the top of the crate. For easier access in case of emergency, do not lock the door on the crate, but do secure it with a sturdy clasp.

About four hours before you are due at the airport, or ready to embark on your car trip, give your pet food and water. It’s a good idea to walk her right before you check in. The ASPCA does not recommend tranquilization, except in cases where animals may harm themselves when extremely stressed. But, as in all matters concerning your pet’s health, do consult your vet. Never let your pet out of the carrier while traveling. If you are traveling by car, however, you may need to walk your dog at a rest-stop. Never leave your pet alone in a parked car. Animals can develop heatstroke or hypothermia. If your pet has a tendency to get carsick, avoid feeding her just before or during a trip – even if it is a long drive. When you reach your destination, keep your pet in a calm, quiet area. Give her plenty of time to adjust to her new environment. Bon voyage!

If you are traveling with an animal to a foreign country, you will be subject to the laws of your destination. You will need to contact the United States embassy of the country you are travelling to, and consult them regarding their regulations about bringing your animal. Go to the ASPCA website and search under “travel” for a link to our list of embassies.

Courtesy of ASPCA National Shelter Outreach
424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700

© 2000 ASPCA

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