How to fly with pets: Tips for taking cats and dogs on airplanes

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How to fly with pets: Tips for taking cats and dogs on airplanes

If you're planning a vacation with your dog or cat and intend to fly, some preflight research can make the trip a little less stressful for you and your four-legged companion. Before booking your ticket, consider the following checklist for your pet's incredible journey.

1. Restrictions. Contact a few airlines because restrictions change often. Air Canada accepts pets on board or in the baggage hold on passenger flights within Canada and to some international destinations. You can also ship your pet on an Air Canada Cargo flight, but you will not be travelling together on the same flight. Other airlines, such as WestJet, United and Air Transat, restrict the number of kennelled animals allowed on each flight and recommend specific plastic, hard-sided kennels for transport in the baggage hold. Kennels in checked luggage can weigh up to 45 kilograms (100 pounds). WestJet allows pets in the cabin in a soft-sided kennel, and if the total weight (including the animal) weighs under 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and can fit under the seat in front of you.

2. Cleared for flight. Visit your veterinarian to confirm the animal is in good health and vaccines are current. You don't need a health certificate to fly domestically, but you will need one to fly out of the country. Vets advise against sedation, saying animals have a better experience if they stay alert during travel.

3. Fees. Airlines charge about $50 one-way for each kennel in the baggage compartment or on board for domestic flights. In checked cargo, the fee is about $100 one-way to the United States and about $250 one-way internationally.

4. Safe passage. Pets small enough to carry on board with WestJet must fit in a secure carrier that can slide under the seat in front of you but cannot be in a handbag or gym bag. It's recommended tha animals travelling in the baggage hold must be able to stand up and turn around in their kennel, which should be lined with absorbent material. You can also include a toy or blanket the animal is familiar with to reassure him. Try to book a direct flight that leaves early in the morning.

5. Before leaving home.
Exercise your pet and feed him a small meal four hours prior to flying. Write his name, your address, cellphone number or any other contact numbers and the words Live Animal on the crate with arrows indicating This Way Up. Freeze some water in a dish that can be secured to the inside of the crate, however, when checking-in for transborder flights, your pet's water dish must be empty.

6. At the airport. Your pet's empty kennel will be scanned through an X-ray by airport security. After that he must remain in the kennel until the flight has arrived at your destination. Before takeoff, ask a flight attendant to confirm your pet has been loaded.

7. Ready for takeoff. Pack a leash in your carry-on bag, so you can take your pet outside as soon as you both land to shake off the stress of the flight and start enjoying your vacation!

This story was originally titled "When Your Fur Flies" in the March 2008 issue.

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How to fly with pets: Tips for taking cats and dogs on airplanes