Millions of animals fly safely every year, but there are a lot of regulations to follow. / Carolyn A McKeone/Getty Images
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Planning to fly with your pet? Millions of pets fly safely in the United States every year, but it’s important to contact your airline as soon as you’re ready to make your travel plans.
If pets are too large to fit in a crate under your seat, they are checked as personal luggage in a pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment. If they’re flying unaccompanied, animals travel as cargo, but in the same kind of pressurized compartment as luggage.
If you have to send your pet on a plane unaccompanied, there are companies that specialize in door-to-door service, escorting your pet from your home to the plane, picking it up at the other end and delivering it to its destination.
Here are some tips to make flying your pet as easy as possible.
• Pet reservations can’t be made online and must be done by phone.
• The number of live animals per aircraft is limited, so reserve ahead.
• Fly early in the day and non-stop when possible.
• No airline will guarantee acceptance of an animal it has not seen.
Your vet's role
• Your veterinarian will determine if your pet is physically able and old enough to travel.
• “Airline Veterinary Health Certificates” must be signed by the veterinarian within seven to 10 days of travel. “Cold Weather Acclimation Forms” may be required for pets traveling as cargo.
• Sedation is not allowed by many airlines; animals lose their equilibrium when sedated. Natural calming tablets may be allowed by some airlines. All medication must be declared upon check-in.
• Under-seat carriers and cargo crates must meet all federal and airline criteria, including size and labeling.
• Empty food and water dishes must be secured inside the crate and be accessible from the outside.
• Leashes cannot be stored inside or be attached to the crate.
Day of departure
• Give your pets light food and water a few hours before the flight.
• Arrive early and walk pets outside the terminal before checking in.
• You can walk your pet though the metal detector and run the empty crate through security.
• Have a leash ready when taking the pet out of the carrier (but not in or attached to the carrier).