Traveling with your dog by plane, train, bus or boat

Sam Shoemate

Our first part of traveling with your dog covered some good tips for riding in a vehicle and overall safety. Most people are generally familiar with traveling with their dog in the car, so that article might not have resonated very strongly with you. I’m going to go over traveling with your dog by modes of travel you may not have ever taken a dog on before, so stick with me and let’s dig in. (Disclaimer, some of this is dry, but you’ll be glad you read it and bookmarked it.)

The last thing you want to do is get to the airport, think you’ve taken care of all the little details of your travel and suddenly find out that you’re missing a crucial detail regarding your pet and you can’t take them with you. When you’re traveling by plane, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian within ten days of travel. A certification of health must be provided no more than ten days before travel. Along with your certificate, rabies and vaccination certificates are also required. Also, your dog needs to be at least eight weeks old and weaned. The airlines aren’t going to have any mercy on you as they make it clear it’s the owner’s responsibility to verify your pet’s health and ability to fly. If you have a skittish dog who’s prone to bouts of spasticity (not a word, but I’m using it anyways), then you might want to ask your vet if it would be best to tranquilize your pup. The last thing you want is for your dog to paint the insides of their crate a darker shade of mud and you now have to find somewhere to break everything down and clean it. Now I want to talk about temperature and your dog’s safety while you’re starting and ending your trip. Before you even take off, think about the cargo hold and the temperature on the ground at your starting point and destination. It can often take quite a while to get off the ground. Federal regulations actually prohibit shipping live animals as excess baggage or cargo if they’ll be exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees F, or above 85 degrees F for more than four hours during departure, arrival, or while making connections. It’s also important to remember each airline is different and has its own set of regulations and services. It may be your crate doesn’t meet their requirements, or they may even allow you to put the dog in the passenger cabin if the crate or carrier can fit under the seat in front of you. Some airlines have brachiocephalic breed restrictions due to respiratory concerns as well. “Dog dies after airline forces owner to put in overhead bin.” All of that said, it’s important you do research on the airline you’ll be traveling on and know exactly what you’re getting into to prevent a surprise. Last but not least, don’t forget to make a reservation for your dog when you make one for yourself. There’s a restriction on the number of animals allowed on a plane, and it’s first come first serve.

If you’re planning on traveling on a train, I’m going to burst your bubble now and tell you it may not happen. Amtrak only accepts pets on a limited number of rails (service dogs are of course permitted.) Local and commuter trains have their own policies, so you’ll have to research your location. Buses aren’t any better. Greyhound and other companies that conduct interstate travel aren’t allowed to carry live animals across state lines. (Once again, service dogs are the exception.) Here’s the deal with service dogs: you have to alert the carrier you’re coming with a service dog so they can accommodate special seating. You need to know the laws and carry a copy of the law with you. If you come across a gate agent, ticket seller, conductor, etc., who doesn’t know the law, you’re going to have to show them the law in writing. Feel free to get into an argument with an agent, but you’ll either lose, miss your ride, or both. Don’t take the chance. If you’re going on a cruise, there are actually a number of companies who not only allow dogs, but they provide special lodging and free meals for your pooch.

The overwhelming takeaway here is to do your research, and if you have a question, ask it. There are a lot of nuances in traveling with a pet, so educate yourself (starting here), and get more specific with your research when you’ve settled on a carrier. We’ll go over lodging and international travel in our next installment along with some helpful tips aimed to keep your doggo safe, and capable of being found if they decide they want to see the sights without you.

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