A Guide to Domestic and International Travel with Animals

A Guide to Domestic and International Travel with Animals

The best advice for someone traveling with a pet is to plan in advance. Airline rules and regulations are constantly changing in regards to travel with animals. The proper paperwork sometimes takes months to attain. For international travel, a health certificate must be obtained from a certified veterinarian and stamped by the USDA seven to 14 days before boarding. Shots must be administered at least a month and not over a year before boarding by a licensed veterinarian. Different countries require different vaccinations and tests so the first step should be to check with the embassy of the country in which you are traveling.

Check the Weather

There are temperature restrictions for animals traveling in cargo. Even if the ticket has already been purchased and a spot reserved for the animal, it is not allowed to board if the temperature is over 85 degrees or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of travel. Some airlines do accept letters from veterinarians stating that Fluffy is acclimated to high or low temperatures.

Some breeds have much more rigid restrictions. Short-nosed breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, may not travel on American Airlines flights, between July 15 and September 30, due to heat restrictions. On Delta, pets cannot fly in the cargo between May 15 and September 15. On most other airlines, short-nosed dogs and cats are only allowed to travel during these times if the temperature is below 75 degrees.

Go by Cargo?

Recently, American Airlines changed its overseas policy so now pets are not allowed to travel internationally inside the cabin. Continental allows pets that can comfortably move around in a 9”x22”x14” traveling case, fly in the cabin. Sherpa® makes a bag that most airlines recommend for in-cabin travel. Both Petco® and Petsmart® carry the Sherpa® bag. It is still wise to make sure the bag is the proper dimensions for your flight. It is best to call and speak with a representative to confirm the measurements.

Crates used in cargo have different specifications. These must be a rigid cage with four ventilated sides. Many airlines sell different sizes of crates. This ensures that your crate will match the specs for your flight and limit your risk of arriving at the airport to find that your companion can not accompany you due to an inadequate crate.

Pet Quota

To keep cabins from turning into airborne arks, a limited number of animals are allowed on each flight. Therefore it is wise to book a spot for “Spot” far in advance. Only one animal is allowed per passenger since it occupies the compartment under the seat in front of its owners.


The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly advises against the use of tranquilizers during the flight. The effects of drugs can be very unpredictable at high altitudes and can hinder the balance animals need in order to resist shock from turbulence. This rule only applies to animals. It says nothing about sedating yourself.


Fees for pets vary slightly from airline to airline. Domestic rates run between $80 to $100 dollars. International travel is costly. Flight rates are often double, depending on the destination. On top of that, there are fees for the international health certificate, around $80.00, the embassy’s stamp of approval, about $20.00, health checkups, vaccinations, blood work, and microchips.

Special Destinations

Due to local legislation, certain destinations have different sets of rules. Recently, a law was passed that mandates pets entering the European Union to have a tattoo or implanted microchip displaying an identification number that matches that on their vaccination certificate. Japan also requires a microchip and blood test; animals may not board flights exceeding 12 hours. For travel to the United Kingdom, animals must be microchipped, blood tested, and checked for ticks and tapeworms. American, United, and Delta Airlines do not accept animals on flights to the UK. Northwest Airlines will transport those that pass the PETS guidelines. For more information on these guidelines that can save your pet from a six-month quarantine, go to the DEFRA website. Hawaii requires a 120-day quarantine for all animals even if they have their vaccinations and paperwork. In that case, it looks as if “Princess” won’t get to sip coconut water on the beaches of Waikiki after all.

If the situation demands that Frisky becomes become a frequent flyer, plan ahead, keep shots current, speak to a person at the embassy, and contact the airline before purchasing a ticket. Most airlines require you to call 24 hours prior to boarding to confirm the pet will be traveling.

For more information regarding travel with your pets:

Alaskan Airlines 1-800-252-7522

American Airlines 1-800-433-7300

America West (only accepts animals in cabin) 800-2FLY-AWA

Continental animal center 1-800-575-3335; offers a new service called Quickpack® that promises the quickest delivery possible for pets traveling in cargo 281-553-5052.

Quickpack® cargo service 1-800-575-3335

Delta Airlines domestic: 1-800-221-1212; international 1-800-241-4141

Northwest 1-888-NWA-4PET

United Airlines 1-800-864-8331

US Airways 1-800-428-4322

Southwest Airlines does not accept animals other than trained assistance dogs.