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Our 2 Cents...Flying Fido

From The National Humane Education Society

The fact is, commercial airlines are not a reliable source of transportation for animals.

Earlier in August (2010), seven dogs died on an American Airlines flight out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The weather was hot, reaching 87 degrees before the morning flight even took off, and they likely suffered from heat exhaustion or stroke (the results of the autopsies have not yet been released). This tragedy serves as a reminder that flying with your pets is a risky undertaking that should be carefully considered.

The fact is, commercial airlines are not a reliable source of transportation for animals. The cargo area, where the vast majority of animals travel, is heated and cooled only while in flight. All the time we spend in the cabin waiting for people to cram their oversized luggage into an overhead bin or decide if they want the aisle or window seat is time that a pet may be sitting in an uncomfortable cargo area. Carriers can also be roughly jostled, stressing out or injuring the animal. Sometimes, a beloved family member can be lost forever like a wayward piece of luggage. The risks are great. Whenever possible, leave your pet in responsible hands or take her along in a car or other safe transportation.

Occasionally, pets do have to fly. When our program, Briggs Animal Adoption Center, helped rescue two Iraqi dogs, we had to fly them in cargo. We called all of the airlines to get their specific rules about pets and chose one that fit our needs best. The dogs flew during non-peak time and thankfully arrived safely. Flying dogs safely can be done, but it takes much more preparation than flying only yourself. Consideration must be had for weather, layovers (avoid them!), high travel times, health of the animal, and more.

If your animal is small enough, you may be able to bring him into the cabin and under the seat in front of you. Keeping your animal within sight for the duration of the flight helps ensure his safety. Another option may be a new airline dedicated to pets. Pet Airways flies only animals (you cannot accompany them) and services some of the main airports in the United States. Because this service is fairly new, reviews are still somewhat limited and it still has to prove its reliability and safety. There are also numerous ground transport companies for pets. Simply do some research and decide which option will fit your and your pet’s needs best.