Liz loves animals. Seeing them ill, hurt, or killed breaks her heart. She advocates for "adopt, don't shop" and TNR programs for feral cats.
Fido and Fluffy Can Add Distractions
Beyond the assorted tips I gave in my article, Driving Safely, there are other considerations inside the car. The foremost problem after misbehaving children is poor choices made by pet owners.
I have seen everything from dogs hanging out the windows to riding in the driver's lap! Neither of these practices is a good idea. In fact, they are very bad ideas for more reasons than one. Several are actually illegal.
It is not only dogs—cats can also cause major distractions to the driving process.
Keep Your Pets Confined
For the safety of your pet, as well as everyone else in the car, be sure to restrain your animals in appropriate ways.
There are harnesses available for medium-to-large dogs that allow the animal to be buckled into the car's seat belts: in the back seat, always, please.
Small dogs should be placed inside a portable kennel/carrier. The carrier should be tied down with the seatbelt, as well. You never know when some other driver will cause you to slam on your brakes, or make a sudden swerve to avoid an accident.
Such sudden motions of the vehicle can send the carrier careening across the seat, possibly turning over in the process, and risking injury to your pet. Now, you have to deal not only with your own possible laundry problem, but an injured or freaked-out animal as well.
Cats Must Not Be Loose
With cats, a carrier is mandatory. Cats are much more easily spooked than most dogs, and it won't take much to send them into a freak-out-frenzy. If they are loose in the car, they can end up on top of your head, digging in for dear life with their sharp claws.
I once saw a fellow driving down the road with a cat riding draped around his shoulders. Cute, but not smart. If there were to be a problem, that cuteness could turn bloody in a heartbeat.
Put kitty in a cat carrier, and strap the carrier into the seatbelt to secure it. Yes, kitty may complain, but learn to tune it out. Cats can be notorious complainers, but they are just fine. They are merely vocalizing their opinion, which can safely be ignored.
Turning around to see if the cat is ok is inviting an accident because your eyes are off the road.
Be Sure to Use a Sturdy Cat Carrier
Dogs In Trucks
Some folks like to let their dogs ride in the backs of their pickup trucks. This is risky for the animal.
Many states now have laws that the dog must not be loose in the bed of the truck, and this makes perfect sense. Not only can a loose dog be tossed about or thrown from the bed in the event of an accident or sudden maneuver, but they can also leap out of their own accord to pursue whatever it is that catches the interest of their doggy minds.
This is dangerous in the extreme, especially if you are in traffic. Your dog can well be hit and killed or severely injured by oncoming cars, and that can also cause accidents for other drivers. You, yourself can also cause an accident because of this, if you happen to see the dog jump out, and stop or turn suddenly with nothing more on your mind than saving your dog.
Not only should a dog riding in the bed of a pickup truck be tethered, but double-tethered, so that he is unable to move to the sides of the truck. Best position for doggy is in the center, tied off to either side. Why is this? Because there have been numerous cases of dogs being tied into the truck bed, but loosely, so that if they saw something, or simply did not wish to be left behind when the owner stopped for an errand, jumped out, and were hung by their tether and strangled to death.
Such tragedies are easily avoided by use of common sense. Sadly, common sense has become rather uncommon; hence laws have been passed to force owners to double-tether dogs in the backs of trucks.
If you are tying your dog into the pickup bed, be sure he is wearing a harness. Do not tie off to his collar, because a determined or panicked dog can slip out of a collar.
Even if your truck has a full camper shell, the dog should still be restrained inside to prevent injury in the event of an accident or sudden maneuver.
Confinement is not cruelty.
Shame, Shame, Mr. President!
Dogs Hanging Out Windows
"But, my dog loves to hang out the window with her face in the breeze while we're riding!" Yes, many people believe that, and allow that. It is a bad idea on many levels. Dogs may be smart and very trainable, but they are not smart enough to recognize potential dangers while riding in a car.
First, there is the risk that the dog can fall or jump out that window, especially if it is a dog that likes to hang her paws over the top of the door and really be riding the wind. This is even truer in a convertible, as seen in the photo of President Roosevelt, above.
Second, there is that distraction factor, because your attention is going to be somewhat focused on the dog, especially if said dog is shifting between window-hanging and hanging over the back of the driver's seat.
Lastly, but equally important, there is a real risk of injury to your dog. We've all seen what happens to windshields when a stray small rock bounces off a gravel truck, or is thrown up by the wheels of the car in front. The damage ranges from a small chip to a spider-fracture of the glass.
That same piece of rock can just as easily hit your dog in the face, and I assure you, soft tissue is a lot less resistant to damage than the tempered safety glass used for car windows. Any such debris (including litter) can hit them in the face, lodge in their ears, or what have you. Dogs have been blinded and suffered other assorted injuries from road debris tossed up from the street.
If you love your dog, harness them in, and keep the windows closed, or open only a small space of an inch or so, too small for them to stick their heads through. That small inch or two of open window will let in enough air for them to stick their noses up to it, and this often will help prevent them from being car sick.
A Special Car Harness Keeps Your Pooch Safe
Carsickness a Problem?
If your dog has a tendency to get carsick, and that is why you want the window open for them, by all means, open a window near the dog's seating position, so he can have fresh air. Just be sure his seat belt is secure, and he cannot hang out the window.
If at all possible, withhold food for at least a couple of hours before hitting the road. It is possible also to give your dog Dramamine™ prior to a road trip. Discuss the dosage with your veterinarian, as it will vary with the size of the dog. Consult your vet for anti-nausea medications for cats.
For very short trips, such as to the vet, it is not wise to medicate, as it could mask what the vet may be checking for. In such cases, it is better to simply prepare by putting old towels in the cat's carrier, and have a spare set along for the return trip.
For dogs, there are protective moisture-resistant pads that can be used to cover the car's seat. The old "ounce of prevention" and "be prepared" mottos apply here.
Confinement Is Not Cruel
Some people seem to think that it is cruel to harness or cage a pet in the car. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is cruel to let them have free range inside the car, because it compromises their safety and yours. Confining your pets while you drive is actually an expression of your love for them.
If you love your dog or cat, please harness or cage them while you are driving.
© 2011 Liz Elias
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 08, 2013:
Hello, Eileen Hughes,
Thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked this article, and I appreciate your addition of veterinary advice that even the wind can cause damage to your dog's eyes.
Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on October 08, 2013:
Well written hub full of good reasons not to have your dog or cat loose in a vehicle.
Another reason not to let your dog hang out of the window is (so a vet told me) it contributes to the dog losing its sight. The wind does effect their eyesight
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on August 15, 2012:
Yes, here in CA, you are allowed to travel with your pets. Keeping them under control is the point of the article. That is to say, you are allowed to travel with any LEGAL pets. In CA some kinds of pets are not legal to own, so before you take any exotic animals into your home or on the road, be sure to check which kinds of pets you are allowed to have.
Thanks for stopping by.
Jose Misael Polanco from Los Angeles on August 15, 2012:
Here in California you are allowed to travel with any pet or animal you want as long as you can keep control of the animal.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on July 17, 2012:
Hello, Philip DeBerard ,
Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment. You are so right that cell phones are not the only distraction while driving. Keeping your pets confined, and planning ahead are definitely important.
Philip DeBerard on July 17, 2012:
Good tips. It's easy to underestimate how difficult it can be traveling with a pet. It always pays to be prepared. Cell phones aren't the only form of distracted driving.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 30, 2011:
Thanks very much for the praise! You raise an excellent point about keeping birds in a carrier as well. I would hate to see a cat/bird/dog fight erupt in the back seat while driving down the freeway! ;-)
Thanks for adding to the discussion.
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on December 29, 2011:
Hi DzyMsLizzy! Great safety tips....I have lots of pets so I was attracted to this hub naturally:). And so excited to see it has been hub of the day! So awesome!
I have several birds....I have carriers for them....some people think their parrots will never fly from their shoulder but they do if they get scared and they are not used to highway noise, usually.
I need to get car seats for my dogs:)
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. Well, we've all done things before there were laws and recommendations--heck--we grew up as kids standing up in the back seat or bouncing around before cars even had seat belts, much less strapping in pets.
So, now you know. Most vets around here require cats to be in carriers for visits, so as not to cause cat/dog incidents in the lobby. ;-)
Thanks much for the votes!
natures47friend from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand. on December 26, 2011:
Lovely hub. I was so naughty with my cat when i travelled. She had kitty litter in the back and often sat on my knee. At the vet she draped around my neck...lol
Up and awesome.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
Hello, Rachel Richmond--
Thank you so much for the compliment, and adding a comment to share. It's so true, that pets, just like kids, will try to push the envelope! Good for you on having a harness for her.
Rachel Richmond from California on December 26, 2011:
Excellent hub! I have to agree with you about pets being a distraction if they aren't secured. Our dog loves to "push her luck" and see if she can climb to the front every time we put her in the car ..haha.. but she never makes it. She is harnessed in. It's a comfort to know she is safer in the back.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
Hi again, randomcreative! Thank you so very much!
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 26, 2011:
I just came back to say congrats on getting Hub of the Day!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
Hello, baygirl33--I'm glad you found the article so useful. I do hope your daughter finds a harness for her pooch to avoid potential injury or heartbreak. Thanks very much for the vote!
victoria from Hamilton On. on December 26, 2011:
I'm hoping to send your hub to my daughter who always rides with her dog unleashed.It is an accident waiting to happen.Thank you for sharing.voted you up.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
@ cabmgmnt--Hello, and thank you for adding that information. You can, indeed, be ticketed for having your dog untethered.
@ cclitgirl--Thanks much, and good for you! I hope your doggie adjusts well to the new seat belt harness. Introduce it gradually with short trips.
@ SanneL--Thanks so much for adding your comment, and brava for you on restraining your pooch! You are correct--our pets are no less members of our families, and should be treated with the same care and concern for their safety. Thanks much as well for the compliment and the kudos!
@ Mary615--Hello, and thank you very much for the congrats, and for adding that important tidbit. It is indeed very much easier if crate or harness training is begun when the animal is young. And yes, small dogs do as well in a travel crate as cats. I'm pleased that you liked the article and found it useful.
@ VictoriaLynn--Good for you--and even a special booster seat for doggie! How cool is that?! I know what you mean about it being crazy-making to see pets loose in a vehicle. Thanks very much for the praise, the kudos and the follow!
@ Pollyannalana--Thanks very much for adding your comment. You make an excellent point. I'm pleased you found the hub useful.
@ Sunshine625--LOL--I had a dog that didn't much like to ride in the car. Trouble was, we had a good-sized yard, so the only car rides he got were to the vet. He'd stary crying as soon as he saw the parking lot. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks very much for the praise, kudos and the vote!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on December 26, 2011:
DzyMzLizzy...Congrats on Hub Of The Day!! It's fantastic!! My dog doesn't like the car so she doesn't travel well at all. Voted UP!!
Pollyannalana from US on December 26, 2011:
Glad you use common sense. Many spoil their pets just like their kids and don't think of safety first. Great advice. Very useful.
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on December 26, 2011:
Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome! It drives me crazy to see pets loose in a vehicle. I put my dog in a harness and then hook him up in his booster seat so that he can see where we're going. I put it in the back seat just where a child's seat would go. I am bad to move it to the front when we just make short trips around town. On long trips, I do move him to the back, but I know I should always do so. Great hub! I hope many people read it and listen! Congrats on hub of the day. I thought I was following you already, but I know I am now!
Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 26, 2011:
Congrats on the Hub of the Day! Very informative Hub. I keep my two little dogs in their carrier when they are in the car. You just have to start when they are very young. Now, they just hop right in.
SanneL from Sweden on December 26, 2011:
Great hub with great advice!
I do use seat-belt for my dog. He should be as protected when riding the car as the rest of my family.
Congratulations on this well-deserved hub of the day.
Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 26, 2011:
Great advice. And...I should follow it. I am heading out to get a seat-belt for my dog. :)
Corey from Northfield, MA on December 26, 2011:
My mother received a traffic ticket for not having her dog tethered. This is good advice.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2011:
@ pstraubie48--Indeed--I know exactly what you mean. Here in California, they've actually made a law that dogs in pickup trucks must be double-tethered, yet many people still ignore that precaution. And kitty "songs" from their carriers, oh, how well I know them all! Each cat sings a different tune! Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the discussion, and thanks for the votes!
@ gmwilliams--thank you very much. I'm glad you liked the article and the photo of my big cat.
@ Thelma Alberts--Thanks for the kudos--much appreciated, and I'm glad you found something useful here to keep your doggie safe.
@ Peggy W--Thank you very much for stopping by. I appreciate your input and the votes. I know what you mean about the 'cringe' factor!'
@ RTalloni--Thank you very much for the kudos! What a horrible thing to have happened to that dog! So glad to learn of a happy ending. And yes, criminal, and hopefully a lesson learned, indeed!
@ Happyboomernurse--Thank you very much! I'm glad you found the article useful--I do hope lives will be saved. (I can't think of a good outcome with the driver I once saw struggling with a cat on his head!) Thanks very much also, for the votes and the congrats.
@ leahlefler--Thank you very much! Wow, that must've been a long trip indeed! I trust neither of the cats were Siamese--you'd really have endured "operatic" protests--we have a kitten who is a Siamese mix, and on the way home from the vet after his neuter surgery, (only 5 miles, mind you), we endured an aria that sounded like nothing so much as a British ambulance or police siren; that diatonic, "OOO-waaaa, OOO-waaaa, OOO,waaaa." I'm pleased you liked the article, and glad to know a fellow kitty-lover.
@ labnol--thank you very much for the congrats, and I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
@ CASE1WORKER--Thank you very much! I am so happy that you liked this article.
You are oh, so correct that this advice applies equally, if not more so on boats! Years ago, (before the economic collapse), we had a boat. At that time, we had a dog and just a single cat. They both came with us, and yes, we had life jackets on them the entire time we were aboard, whether at dock or underway. If it got rough, I shut them down below in the cabin.
LOL at the similarity of our cats--your "Tiggy" and my "Tigger."
CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on December 26, 2011:
A great hub with lots of really good advice which hopefully people will follow. We went on a boating holiday in the summer and the company provides life jackets for dogs, in case they fall in and you dont realise
The cat in the photo looks just like my Tiggy!!
labnol on December 26, 2011:
Good Hub. Voted up.
Congo for 'Hub of the Day' award.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on December 26, 2011:
Congratulations on your hub of the day! We once traveled from California to New York with two cats in the car. That was a LONG five days of travel! We found out that Holiday Inns typically accept pets, and we made good use of them on the road ways. Our cats were leash trained, though, so that did help at rest stops! Great advice!!
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on December 26, 2011:
Excellent hub with some potentially life saving advice (for humans as well as animals). Congrats on Hub of the Day. I hope that recognition will bring more readers to this hub as this hub is very well written and quite comprehensive.
Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.
RTalloni on December 26, 2011:
Congrats on Hub of the Day for a helpful and important hub!
My friend and I saw a large black dog get tossed out of an open Jeep in a 5 lane intersection full of traffic as the driver turned a corner. It was heartbreaking, but amazing to see every car come to a full stop as we approached the area and allow the driver to ease to the side and pick the dog up. It was an accident and it was criminal at the same time. The young driver learned a hard lesson that day, I hope.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 26, 2011:
Well deserved hub of the day! This is excellent advice for people traveling with their pets. I cringe when I see a dog in the back of a truck. It is just so dangerous! Voted up and useful.
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on December 26, 2011:
Very good and useful advice. Thanks for sharing these tips as I have a dog. Congratulation for the Hub of the Day.
Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on December 26, 2011:
This is quite an informative hub. I especially loved the beautiful and cute little kitty!
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 26, 2011:
So many of these things that you have cautioned about, I see happening on a daily basis. I always am so nervous when I see a dog in the back of a truck. The ...precious family dog back there waiting to hop out...or be thrown out by a rut in the road.
I have kitties, and, while I am not thrilled by the song she sings from her carrier when we travel, I know I must keep here there.
Thanks for sharing this info...voted up...and useful.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 13, 2011:
Thanks so much for your comment--I'm pleased you liked this article.
mathira from chennai on December 13, 2011:
Good hub about how to travel with pets.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 02, 2011:
Thanks very much. I know what you mean.. I see that, and wish I had a legal way to force them to pull over and give them 'what for!'
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 02, 2011:
More excellent advice!! I've seen so many cars with pets just running around inside- I get so nervous about them falling out! I hope as many people as possible read this guide- and change their ways!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 02, 2011:
Thank you very much for stopping by. I'm pleased you liked the article. I know what you mean about trying to hold a cat still in a towel. I never tried it while driving, but we had a cat when my kids were young that needed to be wrapped up trying to trim his claws ... as you can imagine, that didn't work out very well, either. ;-)
arusho from University Place, Wa. on November 02, 2011:
DzyMsLizzy - great article, I remember when I was a kid we would take my cat to the vet. I would be desperately holding on to her as she was squirming about. Of course she would meow the whole way there. I don't know why we never used a crate, we just wrapped her in a towel. A lot of good the towel did!!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 01, 2011:
Hello, Om--I'm glad you found the tips useful, and I hope your mom does as well, to keep her pet safe.
Thanks much for your input.
Om Paramapoonya on October 31, 2011:
Thanks for these smart tips. I'll forward your hub to my mom. She often travels with her dog. And yeah, she needs to stop letting him hang out the window!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 29, 2011:
Thanks very much. I know exactly what you mean. I'm glad you found the article informative.
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 29, 2011:
Great topic for a hub! I cringe every time I see a dog on a driver's lap or running around the car. It can be tough to keep pets contained, especially for longer trips, but it's in everyone's best interest to do so. Thanks for these detailed tips for traveling with dogs and cats.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 29, 2011:
Thank you very much for the vote! I'm pleased you found the article useful.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 29, 2011:
This is a very useful hub. So voted. I've always wondered about dogs driving loose in the pickup. Otherwise, most pets seems so handsomely n control of themselves when they're riding.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 29, 2011:
@ chamilj: Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked the article.
@ doodlebugs: Yes, indeed. Dogs goofing off in the backseat can indeed cause major distractions. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your experience.
@ JustAskSusan: I agree--cats in the back window--asking for trouble; dogs loose in pickup beds, I feel like pulling up next to them and saying, "Hey! Don't you love your dog?"
Thank you so much for the compliment.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 29, 2011:
Great advise. I hate seeing dogs in the back of pick up trucks. The seat belts for dogs was a great invention. When I see cats on the back window ledge of a car it worries me, for the safety of the animal and for the passengers and driver.
Nolen Hart from Southwest on October 29, 2011:
At first I laughed when my wife bought seat belt attachments for our dog, but they really make traveling easier. No more lunging at squirrels and bouncing around in the back seat.
chamilj from Sri Lanka on October 29, 2011:
Thanks for the tips and recommendations to travel with Pets safely.
Traveling Safely with Pets
When traveling with furry friends, do you know the best way to do so safely? As it turns out, there are best practices for each mode of transportation when it comes to traveling safely with your pet. Let us break it down for you.
Traveling by Boat
Whether they love the water or are terrified of it, we advise that when traveling by boat (of any size), stay with your pet at all times.
If you’re traveling on a larger boat, such as a ferry or cruise ship, call ahead of time and make sure that your boat allows for pets. Service animals are almost universally allowed, but it’s still best to call and double check.
When possible, keep pets in carriers. If your pet is better on a leash, make sure that they are wearing a well-fitting floatation device. A flotation device can help animals, even if they know how to swim. If your pet jumps or falls into the water unexpectedly, you or a crew member can use the handle on the back of the flotation device to get your pet back on board the ship.
If you’re sitting outside, make sure your pet is wearing sunscreen. Your pet’s ears, nose, and paws are especially susceptible to sunburn. Additionally, if your pet has any thin patches or bald spots, you should apply sunscreen there too. You can consult with your vet about which types of sunscreens to use for your pet or search for pet-friendly sunscreens in the store.
Watch for signs of dehydration or seasickness in your pet, and always carry extra water or medication in case of emergency.
Leash or kennel your pet prior to getting on and off the ship and keep a close eye on them during these times. Because of all the commotion, pets can get excited or nervous during the boarding process so it’s important that you are being extra watchful.
Traveling by Car
Most pets are used to short car rides, whether that’s to the vet or to the dog park. However, not all pets enjoy riding in the car. If your pet is like that, you might want to avoid travel via car.
If a car is the only transportation method possible, you can get your pet accustomed to being driven around by taking them on short car trips, then them working up to longer drives.
You should prepare and pack a pet travel kit for your furry friend. Some things to include in your kit are
- Bottled Water
- Dog food (and snacks)
- First Aid Kit (including medication)
- Food and water dishes
- Grooming supplies
- Pet ID and travel documents
- Waste scoop or plastic Bags
Another thing to include in the kit would be your pet’s favorite toy, blanket, or pillow, which will give them a sense of familiarity while on the road.
Keep pets in the backseat. We hope this doesn’t happen, but if an emergency does occur and your airbag deploys, it can injure any pets in the passenger seat.
Pets should also be kept in carriers while your car is in motion. This is for your pet’s safety as well as the driver’s. Anchor the carrier to using a seatbelt or other restraint, either around the front of the carrier or in the back. Your carrier should not slide or shift during abrupt stops. The carrier should also be big enough so that your pet can comfortable move around (i.e. get up, turn around, sit, stand, and lie down).
You’ll need to schedule frequent stops while on the road, both for bathroom breaks and to feed your pet. You should avoid feeding or giving your pet water in a moving vehicle. When giving pets food and water, make sure it is from what you packed. Some animals may get an upset stomach if they drink water from an unfamiliar area.
You should never leave your animal alone in a parked car. On hot days, your car can reach 45 degrees above the outdoor temperature in just minutes and cause heatstroke in pets. On cold days, your car acts as a refrigerator and traps the cold air in, which can cause your pet to freeze to death.
Traveling by Plane
Air travel can be dangerous for brachycephalic animals, such as pugs, Persian cats, and bulldogs, due to their short nasal passages. They are especially susceptible to heat stroke and oxygen deprivation.
When traveling by airplane, you should check with your airline to see how they transport pets. Different airlines, even within the same airport, may have different rules.
Before arriving at the airport, make sure to ask the airlines these questions
- Do you have any health or immunization requirements/documentation?
- Do you have a limit on how many pets can fly with a passenger?
- Do you require a specific type of pet carrier?
- Do you have any restrictions on transporting pets in the cabin or cargo hold?
If you have a service pet, they will be allowed in the cabin with you, without an additional cost. The airline provider may inquire about your pet’s status, but they must accept credible assurance from the handler, as well as other identifying gear such as an ID card or a service animal vest. Service animals are not allowed to block aisles on the plane, cannot occupy a seat (so they must be able to sit on your lap or under your seat), and for the other passengers’ safety, may not be seated in an emergency row.
If your pet is not a service animal, some airlines will let you bring a cat or small dog, as long as it can sit on your lap or under the seat, into the cabin into the cabin for an additional fee. The fee will vary depending on which airline you fly with.
If your pet is too large to fly in the cabin, most airlines will let your pet fly in the cargo hold with an additional fee.
Despite the stigma of having animals transported in a plane’s cargo hold, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report found zero losses, injuries, or deaths of “an animal during air transport provided by an air carrier.”
If you’re still feeling nervous, here are some facts that will hopefully reassure you:
- The cargo hold is both pressure and temperature controlled
- “Pet safe” airlines have trained employees that follow a last on, first off policy for pets
- Pet check-in occurs at the airline’s cargo facility and pets are individually tracked during each part of their journey
- Pets are not attached to their pet owner’s ticket and do not need to travel on the same flight as their owner
While it is not required to travel with your pet, we definitely recommend doing so.
Before the flight, make sure your pet is comfortable being in a kennel for a period of time. It should be large enough for them to be able to sit, stand, move around, and lie down in. You should also label the crate “Live Animal” and include your name, contact information, destination, and a picture of your pet. Make sure that your kennel door closes, but do not lock it, so that it can be opened easily in case of emergency.
When possible, always book direct flights when flying with pets. If you do have a layover, on the night before the trip you should secure a small amount of dried food and a water bottle outside of the kennel so that airline personnel can feed and give water to your pet if they get hungry or thirsty during the layover.
Make sure that airline personnel know that you’re traveling with a pet, especially if your pet is in the cargo hold. By doing this, workers should be ready if any issues arise, such as weather or mechanical delays. If you have concerns, insist that someone check on your pet to make sure they are doing alright. In some situation, it may be better to remove your pet from the cargo hold.
Traveling by Train
Like planes and boats, service animals are allowed on trains. Some companies may request identification, but it is generally not as extensive as the identification required by airlines.
Certain trains also allow pets on board, so check if your train is one of them before you book your trip. Some trains will charge an extra fee while others may not.
Make sure that you bring health and vaccination records if your train company requires them.
You will need to abide by the train regulations, which may include keeping your pet in their kennel, on a leash, or be hand-carried.
Bring extra food and water for your journey, an extra toy or blanket for comfort, and take advantage of the train stops to stretch your pet’s legs and give them a chance to do their business.
We hope this blog has given you some tips on how to travel safely with your pet. If you have any other questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Traveling Safely With Pets
Planning ahead with proper documentation, medicines and lodging arrangements are critical, a Texas A&M expert says.
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Jan. 8, 2021 — Pet owners choosing to travel domestically while following the appropriate precautions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic may be apprehensive about leaving their animal companion at home. While carrying a pet cross-country may seem daunting, with proper planning, owners should be confident that they can get their furry friend where they need to go.
Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that pet owners need to notify their airline, lodging, and veterinarian of their intention to travel with their pet as early as possible. Owners should also reach out to the appropriate authorities to ensure their pet has the proper documentation.
“Technically, any transport of an animal across state lines requires a USDA health certificate issued by a USDA certified veterinarian,” Rutter said. It is best to check the specific requirements of your destination to ensure that you are in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations when you arrive.
When obtaining the proper documentation from your veterinarian, owners should ensure that their pet is up to date on all vaccinations, heartworm prevention, ectoparasite (such as fleas and ticks) prevention, has a registered microchip with current contact information, and has a legible tag on their collar or harness. Tags should include a pet’s name, an emergency phone number, and any pertinent medical information.
“If your pet receives daily medications, be sure you have enough to last through your trip and ask your veterinarian if it would be worth having a paper copy of prescriptions in case medications get lost,” Rutter said.
Owners of pets who rely on a medical device, such as a glucose monitor or pacemaker, should speak with their veterinarian about what resources are available near their destination. If your pet struggles with anxiety or motion sickness, ask your veterinarian how to best accommodate their needs during travel.
“Many of our pets don’t live terribly exciting lives when it comes to travel, so the hustle and bustle of travel can come as a real shock,” Rutter said. “Weeks before you travel, familiarize your pet with the crate or carrier that they will be traveling in. Hiding treats or feeding your pet in the carrier, providing a comfortable bed in the carrier, and going on short car drives in the carrier can help make the travel experience less scary.”
Rutter also recommends keeping your pet in a travel crate or carrier when they are unattended in a new environment. This keeps your pet out of mischief and ensures that your pet is in a safe and familiar place.
Owners can also help foster a familiar environment for their pet by using the same litter their cat uses at home when traveling, and by feeding them a consistent diet. Avoiding the introduction of new food and treats while traveling may also reduce the risk of digestive incidents.
Most importantly, Rutter recommends that pet owners anticipate the needs of their furry friend and prepare for emergencies. This includes carrying waste bags, water, time-sensitive medications, and at least a small portion of your pet’s food. Owners should also be aware of airport pet relief areas, as applicable.
Owners may wish to research where local emergency veterinary centers are along their route or near their destination. They may also wish to purchase pet insurance for their animal and should keep their policy on-hand when traveling. If possible, include insurance information on your pet’s collar or harness tag.
Finally, Rutter reminds owners that their furry friend may behave differently when exposed to the stressors of travel. Be sure your pet wears a collar or harness with a tag at all times while traveling in case of escape attempts. Fearful pets may also bite, so give your pet ample time to acclimate to new environments before challenging them with meeting new people and other animals, and ensure that they are properly monitored.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be found on the Pet Talk website. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to [email protected]
By Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Staff
Does Your State Require Dogs Be Harnessed in the Car?
We bring our dogs everywhere. If we’re hiking, they’re trekking with us. We’ve figured out all of the dog-friendly stores and cafés in town. And, we wouldn’t consider a road trip without our trusty canine co-pilot. Nose prints on the windows are a sure sign of an excellent journey—or are they? Distractions behind the wheel contribute to thousands of accidents per year. In addition to texting, adjusting radio dials, and eating, a loose dog in a vehicle can be a dangerous distraction. Additionally, an unsecured dog can become a projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, which can cause serious injury—or death—to the dog and passengers in the car. Preventing your canine companion from distracting you while on the road—and keeping them safe for the drive—can be as simple as using a seat belt harness or securing your dog in a crate while in a vehicle. This includes dogs of any age. If you have a young dog, you should still harness or crate your puppy in the car. While using a pet harness in the car is recommended by pet safety advocates and veterinarians, is a dog seat belt required in your state by law?
Throughout recent years, several states have considered legislation to make dog seat belts mandatory. New Jersey made headlines in 2012 when a proposed law called for seat belts for dogs—a move that elicited strongly-worded responses from those critical of the requirement. Other states have likewise proposed dog seat belt laws, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island among them. These dog safety belt requirements have been met with varying degrees of success—usually in the form of restricting dogs to the back seat of the car but not actually mandating a restraint system.
As of January 2019, only a handful of states had specific laws requiring a dog to wear a car harness or be otherwise restricted in a moving vehicle. Many states have passed laws banning dogs from the front seat, truck bed, or from hanging their head out the window. Some states, including Arizona, Hawaii, and Connecticut may charge drivers under distracted driving laws if they drive with a dog in their lap. Similarly, drivers in Los Angeles may be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed if they’re caught with a dog in their lap—the LAPD states that no speed is safe with a pet in your lap.
While several states ban the cruel or inhumane transportation of animals, what constitutes cruelty isn’t always clear. The language surrounding dogs in truck beds is easier to understand in some cases—states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have laws in place to ensure dogs in open truck beds are properly contained in a sturdy crate or cross-tethered. Your dog will also feel more comfortable in a crate while traveling, as it gives them a sense of comfort and security.
The issue of properly restraining dogs in a vehicle is mentioned in the UK’s Highway Code. Rule 57 declares “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
Is your dog required by law to wear a seat belt harness for car travel? Lawmakers across the country stand on either side of the argument. Driving with unrestrained animals in the car could fall under state animal cruelty laws in some locations, and others may consider loose animals a distracted driving violation. Regardless of the law, the safest way for your dog to travel is secured with a dog seat belt harness or in a crate. And, if you get pulled over for swerving, speeding, or other faults caused by the distraction of a dog, you can still be ticketed for dangerous driving. Explore this interactive map of dog seat belt laws by state to see where dogs need to wear a seat belt harness.
Traveling with Pets
Photo Credit: Audilis Sanchez, CDC
Taking your dog or cat on a flight abroad? Make sure you have your pet’s documents when traveling internationally and returning home to the United States. Leave yourself plenty of time before the trip to take care of your pet’s required medical care and paperwork. Remember to start the process early.
First Stop—Your Vet’s Office
If you are traveling internationally, tell your veterinarian about your plans as soon as possible. Together, you can make sure your pet meets the requirements for your destination country External and is healthy enough to travel. Requirements may include:
- Blood tests
- Microchips for identification
Airlines and countries often have different requirements, so make sure you know what the specific ones are.
Talk to your vet about your travel plans and your dog’s rabies vaccination. Photo credit: David Heaberlin, CDC
Research How to Fly with Your Pet
Give yourself plenty of time to do your homework before your trip. A great place to start is the Pet Travel website External of the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Different airlines have different rules about whether and how a pet can travel. Depending on the airline, your pet may be able to travel on your flight either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Confirm this ahead of time with your airline.
On airlines that permit pets to travel, only small dogs and cats that can fit in special carriers under the seat are allowed in the cabin. Their owners must care for them during any layovers. Some airlines may not allow them in the cabin and will transport them as cargo in a heated and ventilated hold. Cats and dogs may travel and rest better this way, since it is quieter and darker, according to the International Air Transport Association. External
Research how to fly with your pet. Photo credit: Misty Ellis, CDC
Another way for your pet to travel is on a separate flight as an air cargo shipment. If this is your preference, or a requirement based on your dog’s size or the destination country’s rules, then get your pet used to the shipping kennel ahead of time. Make sure the door latches securely to avoid any mishaps in transit. Ask your veterinarian for advice about when to give food and water. If a pet is traveling as an air cargo shipment External , you must make arrangements for pickup at the final destination.
Some US carriers don’t allow pets to be shipped between May and September, the hottest months for animals to travel in the Northern Hemisphere.No matter what time of year, safety is always a concern when pets travel by airplane. If absolutely necessary for a dog or cat to travel in cargo, it must be in a sturdy container with enough room to stand and sit, to turn around normally while standing, and to lie down in a natural position. For more information, visit the US Department of Agriculture pet travel website External .
When waiting for a connecting flight, you may have to care for a pet traveling with you in the cabin, while the airline staff or ground handlers care for a pet traveling in cargo. Check with your airline(s) beforehand to see what is required.
Consider your pet’s comfort when traveling. Photo credit: Misty Ellis, CDC
Consider Your Pet’s Comfort
Loading and unloading can be the most stressful part of travel for animals. Consider these tips:
- Get your pet used to its carrier before the flight.
- Purchase flights with fewer connections or layovers.
- Pick departure and arrival times to avoid extreme heat or cold. For example, planning a nighttime arrival to a hot destination may be better for your pet.
- Consult with your veterinarian. The International Air Transport Association discourages the use of sedatives or tranquilizers because they could harm animals while in flight.
- Walk your pet before leaving home and again before checking in.
- If your pet is allowed in the cabin, check in as late as possible to reduce stress.
- If your pet will be transported as cargo, check in early so it can go to the quiet and dimly lit hold of the plane.
Meet the requirements for dogs entering the United States. Photo credit: Derek Sakris, CDC
Requirements for Dogs Arriving in the United States
Whether returning or coming to the United States, all dogs must appear healthy. And if your dogs are coming from a high-risk country for rabies, they must have valid rabies vaccination certificates to enter the United States.
- Dogs must be at least 12 weeks old to get the rabies vaccination.
- If this is your dog’s first rabies vaccination, you will have to wait 28 days before traveling to allow the vaccine to take effect.
- If you’re not sure or don’t have proof your dog was vaccinated before, have your dog vaccinated then wait 28 days before traveling.
- If your adult dog’s rabies booster is current, you can travel without waiting 28 days.
- Your dog’s rabies vaccination certificate must be valid for the duration of your trip.
Some states may require other vaccinations and health certificates. Check with your destination state’s health department External before you leave on your trip.
Some airlines, cities, or states restrict certain breeds, so be sure to check before you travel.
The US Department of Agriculture External has additional restrictions for some dogs arriving in the United States, such as working dogs.
Requirements for Cats Arriving in the United States
Cats don’t need rabies vaccinations to enter the United States. However, most states and many other countries require them for cats. Be sure to check your destination’s requirements and ask your veterinarian before traveling.
Other kinds of pets
If your pet is not a cat or dog, there may be different requirements. Some animals, such as primates (monkeys and apes) or African rodents, won’t be allowed back into the United States. Even if they originally came from the United States, they can’t be brought back here as pets.
With careful planning, your pet can stay healthy and safe while traveling. Photo credit: Audilis Sanchez, CDC
Illness or Death of a Pet During Travel
Despite all precautions, pets sometimes get sick or even die on an airplane. Public health officials are required to make sure an animal didn’t die of a disease that can spread to people. They may have to do an animal autopsy or conduct other tests, at your cost, to figure out the cause of death. The animal’s remains often cannot be returned to you after this testing.
Think of Different Options
Make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel by air. If you have any doubts, consider leaving your pet with a trusted friend, family member, or boarding kennel during your trip, or taking another mode of transportation.
With careful planning, your pet will arrive both at its destination and return home healthy and safe.