Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Air Travel with Pets: Making it Safer


Jillian: Ragamuffin Kitten

Jillian, a beautiful Ragamuffin kitten was being shipped by air by her breeder to her new owner. At the security check point at the Atlanta Airport, Jillian was removed from her carrier to search it. Since she was frightened by a unfamiliar environment and sounds, she panicked and escaped.. Thankfully, after a huge concerted effort by many people, including Lisa Reber  an animal communicator, who were involved in her rescue, Jillian was found and is now safe and sound in her new home, with her brother. A reward of $600.00 was raised and will now be donated to Ragamuffin Rescue.

But this scenario is not unique. Pets escape or get lost. Delivery may not be on time. And while airlines do their best to ensure the safety of pets that are shipped, these unforeseen events do happen. However there are precautions we can take to minimize the risk.

Be sure, if you are shipping a pet, that you have all the identifying information handy. Flight numbers, the name of the airline and arrival airport are important to have on hand.  Mark your carriers carefully with tags and labels. When I have shipped cats, I have insured them for a "tidy" sum which alerts workers that they are handling precious cargo. The safest way to travel, however, is the have your pet accompany you on your flight in the cabin, itself. Ticket arrangements must be made in advance as only one pet per section is permitted. The airline will also inform you of any pet carrier requirements.

I have recently learned that there are secure rooms in which pet carriers and people can be searched. You must request this room. The handlers will allow you to take the pet out of the carrier, hold the pet and will return the carrier to you after it goes through the scanner  You can then safely return the pet to its carrier.

Mousie Tongue: Siamese Cat

When we moved from New York State to Florida in 2001, I traveled with my Siamese cat, Mousie Tongue by Air. In preparation for our journey, I trained him to be at ease wearing a collar and leash in his carrier. It was fortunate that I had the foresight to do this  as it turned out that our flight was  four days after 9/11. The airline schedules were understandably unpredictable, and security was at an all time high. When they requested me to take him out of his carrier, his collar and leash protected both of us. He was terrified with the crowds and noise and would probably have gotten away from me.

I am so happy that Jillian's story has a happy ending.

Have you traveled with a cat by air? Leave a comment and tell us about it.


Vicki said...

I have never traveled with any animal by air, but I am so glad this story had a happy ending. And I must say tht Jillian is certainly one beautiful cat. She looks like she should be on the cover of a major magazine.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, I agree...that kitten is cover page material if I ever saw it.

I haven't traveled by air with a pet, but my daughter did have her Rocky flown to Florida and back. This was some time ago (80's maybe? 90's?) and he was treated very well. The stewardess even brought him straight to Diane and Doug. I doubt you'd find that service today.

I wonder if you can buy a ticket for a cat, then go strap them in the seat? LOL probably not, but unless I was flying, that'd be the only way I'd ship MY cat!

Pam said...

Oh, I can so relate to this story! I moved from MA to CA last June with four cats and it took a lot of advance planning and a lot of anxiety attacks before we all settled into our new home.

The first thing I did was check the airline regulations for transporting pets -- months in advance -- and booked two seats in Biz Class for myself and my daughter. We were each allowed to carry one cat but they had to be in a carrier and fit under the seat in front. The two other cats went in good-sized crates and were put on the plane in the luggage compartment. It was very, very hard to decide which would go where but I decided that the two that the only way I could do it would be to have the two noisiest ones go in the crates.

The next thing I did was check with my vet as to what I needed. I knew that I was going to need a health certificate for each cat signed within 48 hours of the flight. I immediately took each to the vet to make sure that there weren't any unknown medical conditions that might need treatment before getting that certificate. The vet recommended a low-dosage anti-anxiety pill for the cats and to give one to each of them at least a week in advance to see how they react.

So, plans all made, everything on the list done. I made up an itinerary tag for each of the carriers and the crate. These are special tags that I attach to all of my luggage with all of the contact addresses and phone #s of where I'll be. I also got water and food bowls for the crates, which are required. I was also required to have at least a day's worth of food packaged and taped to each crate.

Four days before flying, the movers came and while they had the door open to take out my mattress, my 17 YO cat escaped. She'd never, ever been outside the house and never showed any interest. I searched for two days for her, absolutely frantic that I might have to leave her behind. I made alternate plans that if she was found, my regular cat sitter would put her on a plane. 36 hours before our flight, I went out to see my cat be put on the truck for CA. It was one of those huge car carriers that takes 8 - 10 cars so they couldn't get near my condo. After watching them put my car on the carrier, I walked back slowly to my condo, calling and whistling all the way. As I was walking back, I saw a bright, shiney penny on the ground, picked it up and knew right then that I'd find Jamie (the cat). I decided to take a slightly different path back to my condo and as I was calling, Jamie's little head popped out from under some flowers. OMG! I was crying. I sat on a stoop near her, quietly talking to her and waited for her to come to me. Which she did. A frantic call to my vet and I was able to get the last-minute health certificate. Phew!

One of the regulations that was of concern in flying to CA in June is that the temperature at the destination MUST be under 85 degrees. For that reason, I booked a very early, non-stop flight between Boston and LA but it also meant that we had to leave at 4AM to get to the airport at least two hours before check-in (another regulation).

The cats got through their security check, we all landed in LA at about 10:30AM and we were in our new home just after noon.

The kitties have all adjusted to living in CA and love being able to see through so much glass at the great outdoors. Sadly, one of them passed away last November but she had been ill for several years.

Anyway, that's my story. It was VERY stressful but has a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

I have never traveled by air with any of my cats, just by car from NC to VA with KC. He was drugged on Acepromazine, so he slept all the way there.

I just had to comment on Jillian's beauty. She is awesome in her poise and angelic expression.

Jo, it was so poignant to see a photo of Mouse sitting on his stairs. Can you believe that it's been more than 4 years since we lost Mouse and KC? I miss KC every day, as I know you do Mouse. In fact, I woke up this morning after a dream about KC...sigh.