Jet Set Canines: Flying With Our Dogs by Gary Adair
The inevitability that those of us with hunting dogs will plan an out-of-state hunt to pursue game birds is a no-brainer. Believe me, I know, as my dogs and I take quite a few of these trips each season. But there are several things one must consider before flying our four-legged hunting companions. These include cost, kennel requirements, seasonal restrictions and veterinary clearance. To alleviate as much stress as possible on you and the dog, it is best to know the intended carriers rules and requirements well in advance of a trips departure date.
While most commercial airlines will fly dogs as checked baggage, some don’t. The cost of such travel can vary greatly from one carrier to the next. Whether it is a flat-rate, one-way charge or a roundtrip rate based on zone and weight of the kennel and dog, these costs can range from $75 to well over $400. My advice, if airline is no preference, is to peruse each carrier’s web site for the best rate available. Otherwise, for those faithful to a particular airline, you could well end-up being gouged with the unjustifiable charges that some carriers have recently implemented. I currently use and recommend Delta. Note: It was just announced that some airlines such as Midwest and United will be offering sky miles for pets that travel with their owners. Check their web site for more information.
Although the requirements for kennels are fairly simple, all must be approved by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Additionally, kennels need to be constructed of a hard material, have sturdy metal doors and allow enough room so that the dog can stand upright and turn around. The most popular type, the hard plastic models, are carried at most pet stores and are the ones that I use. Check with the airline on what sizes they can accommodate before making a purchase.
While kennel labeling, live animal stickers, up arrows, etc. are handled by airport personal during check-in, the two things not to forget are food and water dishes and absorbent material, I use bed sheets. They will check for both! Also, make sure all of your paper work is in order, so things go smoothly, and have a leash available for when TSA does a search of kennel and dog.
Another thing to consider when flying our dogs as checked baggage is the time of year. All airlines have summertime embargos (May 15th – September 15th) and there are temperature restrictions throughout the year, as well. During extreme weather temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 20 degrees, airlines will not fly dogs. And if the temperature is below 45 degrees, an acclimation certificate stating what temperature the dog can be flown at needs to be obtained from a veterinarian, signed, dated and issued within 10 days of departure.
Additionally, some airlines require a health certificate, signed and dated, from a veterinarian listing the dog’s current inoculation record and, in the Vets opinion, that the dog is healthy to make the journey. This certificate should also be available from your veterinarian and has to be issued within the same 10-day time frame as that of the acclimation certificate. The airlines web site should be able to walk you through these important requirements rather easily.
Air travel with dogs need not be a hassle if one has their ducks in a row. It offers piece of mind in knowing that the dogs are safe and secure just below you. You’re saving precious vacation time and you are only hours from releasing the dogs and loading the gun. Besides, it’s the only way to travel if the intended destination is more than a 10-hour drive away.