Six Myths on Pet Travel to Keep in Mind This Summer

The ARK at JFK

Summer is closer than ever. If you or a client are hitting the road this season with a furry friend, Elizabeth A. Schuette – managing director of privately owned animal reception terminal The ARK at JFK – has rounded up some of the top myths regarding traveling with pets to keep in mind. 

The myths, along with Schuette’s advice regarding them, are:

Myth: You should sedate your pet to calm them down before traveling.
 
Fact: Never sedate your pet unless advised by your veterinarian for medical reasons.  As noted by Dr. Patricia Olson, a director of the American Humane Association (AHA), “an animal's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation. When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.” JAVMA, Vol 207, No. 6, September 15, 1995. Sedation or tranquilization can also increase respiratory or cardiovascular risks while flying, especially for Brachycephalic breeds (i.e. English or French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, and others.) Acclimating your dog or cat to their travel crate is our first recommendation to help plan for transportation with nervous companions.
 
Myth: It’s dangerous for pets to travel as live cargo because of the extreme temperatures.
 
Fact: Dogs that travel as excess baggage or as cargo are placed in the cargo hold of the plane which is temperature controlled and pressurized. Many pet owners think that the weather and temperature restrictions are in place because the cargo hold is not controlled. The temperature restrictions are in place for during loading and transportation to and from the aircraft.
 
Myth: There are so many adverse incidents involving pet transportation – look at the news!
 
Fact:  All domestic U.S. carriers are required to report the number of incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals during air transport to the Department of Transportation. These events are published by month and by year in the Air Travel Consumer Report. In 2017, carriers reported 40 incidents out of 506,994 total animals transported – less than .08 percent. In 2018, the number dropped to 17 incidents for 424,621 animals transported – less than .04 percent. The sensational stories grab headlines, but the facts speak for themselves. Sadly, the adverse publicity associated with the loss, death or injury to a pet has caused airlines to enact greater restrictions on travel as evidenced by the 16.2 percent drop in the number of animals transported between 2017 and 2018. 
 
Myth: DIY Pet Transportation, I can do it!
 
Fact: It’s best to work with professionals when it comes to animal travel, especially when pets are not allowed to fly in-cabin. Information is not easily obtainable regarding drop-off, pick-up, or general how-to questions. While pet transportation within the United States can be completed without an agent, reaching out to a professional pet shipper for guidance is highly recommended and especially for certain breeds and sizes. International Transportation is also a complicated and lengthy process depending on the destination, the country’s own customs regulations and individual airline restrictions. Planning and contracting with a professional pet shipper is highly recommended and oftentimes required by most airlines.
 
Myth: Place treats, toys, and chews in the crate to fight boredom.
 
Fact: Toys, treats, chews, and even collars or harnesses can be a choking hazard. If your pet accidentally swallows anything that gets lodged or makes them choke while maneuvering between cargo facility and airplane, this can be fatal. Collars and harnesses can also get caught and cause lacerations or choking. Do not place beds, towels, or blankets in your pets’ crate if they like to chew on them or if you feel they can be mischievous. In addition, sweaters and other clothing is NOT a good idea since pets have a natural ability to regulate their temperature and since the cargo hold of an airplane is temperature controlled. Any extra clothing may cause overheating even in the winter.
 
Myth: The safest way to transport my pet is by ground. I can drive my pet myself or hire a pet transporter who will drive my animal across country.
 
Fact: Depending on the breed or size of the pet, ground transport may be the only option. Consulting a professional is highly recommended. However, ground transport can take days whereas a flight can bring your furry companion to their destination within hours. Depending on the transporter, several companies will car pool with other pets that are traveling along the same or similar route and this may make the drive for your companion more stressed. In addition, the weather while driving through different states may also not be ideal since it can change from hot to cold, or raining to snowing. Also, if you have a cat, s/he may not have the opportunity to come out of their travel crates to relieve themselves like dogs can. If your dog is aggressive or nervous, s/he may also not be able to come out of their crates to relieve themselves for the safety of the driver.

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The ARK at JFK is a privately owned animal reception terminal and quarantine facility at New York City’s JFK Airport. It offers animal handling services and kennel accommodations, equine import quarantine and export center, on-call veterinary medicine and a bonded isolation area for avian and other exotic animals. The facility has welcomed a variety of animals since it opened, including horses, cats, dogs, turtles, baby goats, rabbits, birds, race pigeons, a pot-bellied pig, an agouti rat, snakes, scorpions, capybaras, porcupines, sloths and many others.

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