Subject: Transporting Pets (was Re: Airline trouble)
Erina in Reston, VA recently asked:

What was your situation?

I am preparing for a move to Amsterdam from the Washington DC area and I am very nervous about flying my dog. There is no quarantine in the Netherlands so I am relieved my baby will not have to go to Puppy Jail.

Any advice from anyone in TravelZine Land on how to prepare my dog (and myself)?

I've written to Erina privately to explain my situation rather than rehash it all for members.

But here's my advice for transporting animals:

Airlines generally allow *one* small animal, in a travel cage, inside the cabin for a flight. The animal must be small (Erina's doesn't qualify) such as a cat or lapdog, and only one is allowed per flight, so that must be reserved well in advance.

Otherwise, animals must be transported inside an approved travel cage - several available from pet stores (apparently airlines themselves used to sell them, but do so no longer).

The closed cage then is placed in the temperature and pressure controlled cargo hold of the aircraft. To reduce any time waiting about on a loading dock or runway, don't check in until the last possible moment, unless the airline will permit you to get a boarding pass without checking the animal cage until later. This means you don't get much choice in seating, but you don't have to worry about the dog stuck inside the cage for any more time than necessary.

Be absolutely sure about quarantine regulations both at your destination and at any stops that might be scheduled, as well as any possible quarantine on your return. I had thought about flying Asiana Airlines through Seoul between Seattle and Bangkok, but I never could get a straight answer from the Korean authorities about access to my dog in Seoul during an 8 or 9 hour stopover. If you do have a stopover, be sure that you actually have long enough to get the dog out to walk about (tag the cage for the stopover destination, and then plan to check him in again), or that it's short enough that he isn't left sitting for a great period of time locked in his travel cage. Be sure to carry a good leash in your pocket.

Get the animal checked out by your veterinarian, and be sure that you have valid rabies certificates, and a good idea is a Certificate of Health from the vet. This is basically just a note saying that the animal is in good health, but the extra bit of paper won't hurt, and you're already seeing the vet for the check-up, and other possible medications. It's also a good idea to carry any certificate of neutering, and maybe something to indicate that *you* own the dog. (I understand that there are now some countries which can provide an animal passport with photo, and information about microchips or tattoos.)

Medications: be prepared for standard upsets, such as ear or eye infections, and be sure you have appropriate worm and flea medications.

Sedatives: some people don't use them, and I'm not sure if I would again, because my dog was thoroughly tested on our last trip, (I think he survived better than I did - someone suggested that *I* should have taken his sedative and I almost agree with that!) but the vet will probably prescribe Acevet with the dosage determined by the dog's weight. Sasha was affected by his pills within about half an hour - became drowsy and staggery - and apparently it lasts for about 8 or 9 hours. So, he began in a very relaxed state, but obviously popped out at the other end bright and eager. And he was - he stretched, gave himself a shake, and then looked at me as if to say, Okay, now what? Can we play? There are other sedatives available, even some human medications that people recommend, but be careful that whatever it is doesn't just remove the animal's ability to move and not calm him mentally. Some become quite panicked if their muscles won't work in a stressful situation which they are fully aware of. The sedative must be more than a muscle relaxant: it must dull the animal's mental capacity.

On top of Sasha's cage, I taped a complete copy of my itinerary (one way) with flight numbers, times and dates. Although he is very friendly, I also posted a note that said, Danger! Sharp Teeth! This was mainly to discourage anyone who might want to poke a finger in towards him.

I also painted, in bright fluorescent orange, one letter of the English alphabet and when I boarded each flight, gave a printed note with the following to a stewardess for the Captain or First Officer:

To the Captain or First Officer: I have my dog in a travel cage in the cargo hold of this aircraft accompanying me today. I must be assured that his cage has definitely been loaded. Therefore, will you please determine the English alphabet letter marking in bright orange on the top of the cage before take-off, and convey that information to me in seat number: _____________ The letter is: _______________

Many thanks. (My Signature)

The purpose of this note was to ensure that not only was some dog loaded on the aircraft, but that *my* dog was there!

Apparently the cage cannot be completely locked so that someone can get to the animal if necessary, but I didn't want anyone accidentally opening it for any reason (see the note about sharp teeth) so I used a couple of cable ties on opposite corners of the grill door. These are almost invisible, but are made of strong plastic so cannot be broken or removed easily. I carried a nail clipper in my pocket and was able to cut it off within seconds when I wanted to get him out.

Food &Water: the little cups provided with the cage are useless. They hold almost nothing and are pretty well guaranteed to spill. Sasha wasn't much interested in food (he isn't a food focused dog at any time) so after the dry food spilled on our trip out, I didn't bother putting any food in his cage on the return trip. There were a few small packages in the small bag that attaches to the outside of the cage in case of emergency. When we had a stop in Los Angeles on the way back, I gave him some of it there in the airport; he was a little hungry, as he hadn't eaten in quite a number of hours, and maybe he figured our travel was finished (well, it almost was - just a few hours more). I drilled a small hole through the wall of the cage and figured out how to tie a small plastic bucket for water to it so it wouldn't tip over. The night before leaving home, I put the bucket only half filled with water into the freezer so we began the next morning with a block of ice which slowly melted as he might need a drink. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do this leaving Bangkok, but made sure the bucket was only half filled so it wouldn't spill with the takeoff and landing angles, or in turbulence.

Try to minimize the amount of time inside the cage. Sasha is very well behaved so I had no problem walking through the airport with him by my side (on a very short leash) and putting him inside at the last moment, or popping him out the moment I received the cage from the airline or from the luggage carousel. (Yes, that happens in some places.) Of course, you'll have some paper towelling and plastic bags in you pocket in case they're needed inside the terminal. (Sasha didn't bother until we were outside on the street, even after the more than 20 hours between Los Angeles and Bangkok.)

Finally, be sure of your transportation to and from any airports. Apparently some cab companies refuse to take a dog even if it is inside a travel cage. Public transport is rarely a valid option. Try to be sure that you're flight will be met by someone, or see if you can figure out those first and final legs of your trip before you set off.

Sorry this is so long, and I've probably forgotten some things, but if anyone has questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me privately or respond (without quoting the whole thing) to the list.

Preparing yourself? Jack Daniels or Seagram's Crown Royal might help :-)

Les Thompson