Animal lovers were shocked this week by news accounts of the death of a kitten travelling by air from Utah to Connecticut on a Delta Airlines flight, in what were supposed to be climate controlled conditions. During this cold wave enveloping much of the country, The Humane Society of the United States reminds pet owners not to transport their beloved companions by air as cargo unless no other options exist.
As the nation’s largest animal protection organization, The HSUS regularly receives reports from pet owners that animals continue to be killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Our pets can face risks including excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, scarcity of oxygen, and rough handling when flown in the "cargo" area of a plane. The Department of Transportation tracks animal deaths in transit, but not how many die of cold or heat in cargo holds or elsewhere. Heat deaths are more commonly reported, but this year’s extreme winter weather may cause that number to climb.
If your pet must travel by air, your best option is to keep him on board with you. But if he must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips on The HSUS’ website.
The airline industry treats live animals as baggage. In the past, airlines have neither responded appropriately to reports of animal injuries, nor provided accurate information to the public. All American-based airlines are now required to report any companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo holds of their planes, including any deaths, injuries, or losses of these pets. Many airlines have responded to this law by implementing restrictions on accepting pets as cargo. For a complete month-by-month breakdown of these animal incidents, visit the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report.
Before you make plans to travel with your pet, The HSUS suggests:
consider driving instead of flying if planning on bringing a pet on vacation. If this isn't possible, consider leaving your pet behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel.
Above all, when making travel decisions, consider what is best for your pet.
If you must transport your pet by air, your first decision is whether you can take him or her on board with you. If your pet is a cat or small dog, most airlines will allow you to take the animal on board for an additional fee. To find out about this option, call the airline well in advance of your flight; there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin area.
When you contact the airline, be sure to find answers to these questions:
Does the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog on board with you?
If that option isn't available to you, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet as cargo?
Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers, which may be more comfortable for your pet, but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.
The HSUS also urges air travelers not hesitate to complain if they witness the mishandling of any animal at any airport.
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