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Travel tips for flying with your pets

August 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two million animals a year travel on airplanes in the United States. But not every trip is smooth sailing. If you're planning on traveling with your pet this summer, here's how to navigate the risks, rules and fees you will encounter.

Every airline has its own set of rules about traveling with your dog or cat. And let's not forget each animal is different in how it reacts to airline travel. So there is a lot to think about before you take off.

Veterinarian Joe Impellizeri says traveling with pets is a serious matter.

"We want to make sure they're happy and healthy before subjecting them to any type of stress during transport," said Impellizeri.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart agrees that when the fur flies, there's a lot of planning involved.

"If you want to take your pet on the plane, keep in mind that most airlines allow only a few pets on board. So check ahead of time to make sure there's room for your Fluffy or Fido," said CR ShopSmart Senior Editor Amanda Walker.

More important travel tips: Find out whether you need a health certificate from a veterinarian. And check whether the airline allows pets in the cabin or as checked baggage only.

"If you're taking your pet as checked baggage, you should also see if you need an acclimation certificate from your vet," said Walker. "That's to certify that your pet can handle temperature changes."

Also, make sure your pet has identification so it won't get lost. Fill out a card with your name, phone number, address and a recent pet photo and attach it to the carrier.

And how much will your pet's plane trip cost you? Prices vary widely. AirTran Airways currently charges $69 one way for pets traveling in the cabin, while Continental, Delta and United charge $125.

"Airlines frequently change their fees, so compare costs ahead of time to make sure you're getting the best deal," said Walker.

Finally, realize that airlines will only fly pets older than eight weeks or that don't need medical attention.

Airport workers aren't always aware of the rules for traveling with pets. So print out the airline's requirements from the website to bring with you. That will help smooth the check-in process. And if your pet is traveling as cargo, ask the flight attendant to monitor the temperature in the pet-storage area to ensure your pet's safety.


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