Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Summertime Travel Tips for Pets

pet travel

Pet travel has been all over the news these past months from the changes in service animal travel regulations to the errant shipping of pets to destinations other than their planned one. Seems like there has been a new pet travel crisis reported daily. Managing pet travel from the veterinary standpoint has been challenging too. Airline travel forms are being changed so quickly that if pet families print the form a few days before their trip, the forms are no longer valid when the pet gets to the airport. Here are some tips for smoothing out the bumps in pet travel.

Travel to Rabies-Free Countries
Orchestrating travel with your pet to a foreign country can be one of the most complex organizational tasks ever involving negotiating the airline’s rules and government regulations. Rabies-free countries pose the greatest challenge as many require not only proof of rabies vaccination, but laboratory documentation of protective titers based on a blood test. Most of the rabies-free countries are island nations with complex rules about pet travel.

Although Hawaii is not a foreign country, its pet travel regulations rival those of England and Australia. I started in April working on administering the proper vaccines and submitting the blood tests for a patient of mine hoping to make a trip to Hawaii in August. The take home message here is to keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up to date and start early if you plan to fly internationally with your pet. Requirements for vaccinations other than rabies vary between countries, so be sure your pet has the required vaccines administered well in advance of travel.

Automobile Safety
The classic American vacation involves piling the whole family, including the pets, into the car and driving to the beach, mountains or a National Park. Before you load up, make sure your pet is safely secured in her seat. Pet should not be allowed to roam free in the car because in a crash, your pet becomes a free flying projectile capable of injuring a person riding in the car or sustaining severe injuries themselves. Your pet should be in a crate in the back seat or cargo area and the carrier should be secured to the child restraint loops between the seat and backrest. If your pet must sit on the seat, be sure to use a harness to prevent them from becoming a distraction when you are driving.

The Center for Pet Safety certifies products based on safety testing using animal crash test dummies. They also author independent safety standards to keep your pets safe. The Center for Pet Safety website lists products meeting their standards to keep your pets safe during a road trip vacation.

Riding the Rails
Just like the airlines, Amtrak has rules about pet travel, so be sure to read the fine print on their website before riding the rails with your pet. Your pet will need a reservation and will have to pay a fee to travel on Amtrak. The California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco is out if you are traveling with Fluffy or Fido since pets can only travel on trips less than seven hours. My current foster kittens, Nathaniel and Nino, would not be welcome on Amtrak since they are only 20 days old and pets must be eight weeks of age to travel on the train. Not all trains accept pets, so be sure to plan your travel schedule around trains accepting pet passengers.

If there is one unifying theme for pet travel it is to plan ahead. Get your pet’s travel papers in order and double check exactly which forms you need, investigate pet-friendly accommodations, and make airline reservations well in advance to ensure your pet will be allowed to board.

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