Animal flight transport is the movement of animals by transport, People who travel with service animals-for example, guide dogs for the visually impaired, or assistance dogs for those who are mobility impaired-do not have the choice of leaving their pet at home.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees reasonable accommodations for the mobility of individuals using service dogs. Canada has similar laws in place that ensure the rights of its citizens with disabilities. However, even with service animals, advance planning for travel within the US is wise and sometimes essential.
For example, travel to Hawaii with a service dog requires documentation of the animal’s status and training, proof of current rabies vaccination, microchipping, testing for immunity to rabies, and other documentation. Although these requirements are less stringent than those for non-service animals (described later), they still require advance planning to ensure that your travel is not delayed.
Individuals with disabilities should remember that beyond the borders of their home countries, accommodation needs should be approached creatively. If you anticipate foreign travel with a service animal, you should provide the destination country with as much advance notice as possible (at least 30 days) to avoid having to enter the country without your vital helper.
Sometimes it is necessary to be flexible about trying another nation’s disability-related supports and services. When traveling internationally with an assistance dog, individuals with disabilities should contact organizations for the visually impaired and/or guide or service dog schools in the destination country to determine how practical international travel might be. It is important for disabled travelers to understand the laws and cultural norms of their destination.
Traveling with Animals
In addition to the USDA rules, each airline establishes its own policies. Consequently, it is important to check with the air carrier you intend to use. However, the following are some provisions you will likely encounter at most airlines:
- Airlines generally require health certificates from all shippers. So it’s a good idea to have a licensed veterinarian examine animals within ten days prior to shipment and issue a certificate stating that the animal is in good health. Airlines may not require health certificates for service animals used by passengers with disabilities.
- A pet may be transported as baggage if accompanied on the same flight to the same destination. Some air carriers may impose a special fee or “excess baggage” charge for this service.
- Pets may be shipped as cargo if unaccompanied, and many airline cargo departments employ specialists in the movement of animals. Animals must always be shipped in pressurized holds. Some airlines allow the kennel to be carried in the passenger cabin as carry-on luggage if it fits under the seat.
The federal Animal Welfare Act is enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here are several of the more important requirements.
- Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and must have been weaned for at least five days. Cages and other shipping containers must meet the minimum standard for size, ventilation, strength, sanitation and design for safe handling. (Sky kennels furnished by the airlines meet these requirements.)
- Dogs and cats must not be brought to the airline for shipping more than four hours before departure. (Six hours is permitted if shipping arrangements are made in advance.)
- If puppies or kittens less than 16 weeks of age are in transit more than 12 hours, food and water must be provided.
- Older animals must have food at least every 24 hours and water at least every 12 hours. Written instructions for food and water must accompany all animals shipped, regardless of the scheduled time in transit.
- Animals may not be exposed to temperatures less than 7*C unless they are accompanied by a certificate signed by a veterinarian stating that they are acclimated to lower temperatures.
- Animals cannot be shipped COD unless the shipper guarantees the return freight should the animals be refused at destination.