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Care and Handling of Pets During Air Travel - Instructions (Lesson 2)

A Lesson for Airline Baggage Personnel

According to the United States Department of transportation, over 2 million pets travel by air each year. Most often, pets that travel by air arrive safely at their final destination and are happily reunited with their owners. Unfortunately, the trip does not always go smoothly for some pets as they become injured or even die during the course of air travel.

This lesson is designed for airport personnel who have the responsibility for the care of dogs and handling of kennels during air travel. After reviewing this lesson, you will understand many factors that can improve the safety of dogs during air travel and increase the likelihood that the dogs will arrive healthy at their final destination. These factors include the appropriate care and handling of dogs and kennels under both normal and extreme conditions.


Feeding and Watering

One of the first considerations is the regular feeding and watering of dogs during air travel.

Dogs 16 weeks of age or more must be offered food at least once every 24 hours. Puppies less than 16 weeks of age must be offered food at least once every 12 hours. All dogs must be offered potable water at least once every 12 hours.

Dogs must be treated with care and their kennels must be handled carefully throughout their air travel experience.

Regular Care when Handling Dogs

Dogs must be cared for regularly during air travel.
  • Dogs must be observed as regularly as possible during air transport (at least once in every 4 hours if cargo area is accessible). This includes when the dog is loaded and unloaded and whenever the animal cargo space is accessible.
  • Dogs must not be removed from their kennel except when the kennel is being cleaned, during veterinary care, in case of an emergency, or when the dog is transferred to another kennel or facility that meets Animal Welfare Act standards.
  • If the dogs are in transit for more than 24 hours, the kennels must be cleaned. If it becomes necessary to remove the dog from the kennel in order to clean the kennel, the procedure must be completed in a way that safeguards the dog from injury and prevents escape.
  • If a dog is obviously ill, injured, or in physical distress, it must not be transported in commerce, except to receive veterinary care.

Avoiding Contact with Other Pets

Efforts should be made to prevent dogs from coming into direct contact with other pets during air travel.

No more than one dog, 6 months of age or older, may be transported in the same kennel. No more than two live puppies 8 weeks to 6 months of age, that are of comparable size, and weighing 20 pounds (9 Kg) or less, may be transported in the same kennel.

Handling Dog Kennels 

Special care is required when handling kennels containing dogs.
  • Kennels must be handled in a manner that protects the animals from physical harm or distress.
  • Kennels must be moved between the holding areas and the planes as quickly as possible.
  • Kennels must not be tossed, dropped, or needlessly tilted, or stacked in a manner that may cause the kennel to fall.
  • Kennels must be protected from the elements.

Care with Kennels on Conveyor Belts

Conveyor belts used in loading or unloading planes, and other airport locations pose potential risks to dogs in kennels.

An attendant must be present at each end of the inclined conveyor belt when a kennel is being loaded or unloaded from planes. A kennel must not be placed on any other conveyor belt such as a baggage claim conveyor belt.
  

Shelter from Extreme Temperatures 

Dogs and their kennels should be protected from exposure to extreme temperature.

Dogs must not be exposed to air temperatures above 85 °F (29.5 °C) or below 45 °F (7.2 °C) for a period of more than 4 hours. Dogs must not be accepted for transport unless the animal holding areas meet these temperature requirements.
   

Shelter from Extreme Weather

Dogs and their kennels should also be protected from exposure to extreme weather conditions.

Kennels should be protected from extreme sunlight and extreme heat and cold. Sufficient shade must be provided to protect the dog from the direct rays of the sun at all times. During the movement of dogs to or from the airplane or animal holding areas the dog must not be exposed to ambient temperatures above 85 °F or below 45 °F for more than 45 minutes.

Holding Area Conditions

Conditions in the areas used to hold dogs can also influence the dog’s health and well-being.

Ventilation must be provided in any animal holding area by means of windows, doors, vents, or air conditioning. Auxiliary ventilation, such as exhaust fans, vents, fans, blowers, or air conditioners, must be used in any animal holding area when the temperature is 85 °F or higher. Sufficient protection must be provided to keep the dog dry during rain or snow. .

Cargo Area Conditions 

The cargo area conditions can also affect the dog’s health.

The animal cargo space must be constructed and maintained in a manner that protects the safety, health, and well being of the animals at all times. The animal cargo space:
  • must have an adequate supply of air for normal breathing.
  • must be heated and cooled as necessary to maintain temperature and humidity that ensures the animal’s health and well-being.
  • must be pressurized when the airplane is not on the ground, unless flying under 8,000 feet.
  • must not contain exhaust fumes or other hazardous substances (e.g., dry ice) in a manner that may harm dogs.

Persons handling and caring for dogs during air transportation should observe the kennel labeling carefully.

Observing Kennel Labels 

Kennels include arrows and "Live Animal" labels to assist the kennel handlers.
All kennels require special handling. Any person handling a kennel should observe the "This Side Up" arrows to make sure that they orient the kennel properly.

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Following Routing Instruction 

Kennel handlers should make sure that the kennel and dog arrive at the proper location.

Any person handling a kennel with “Live Animal” labels should take extra care to assure that the kennel is routed to the correct destination.

Emergency Situations

Occasionally persons handling dogs face emergency situations that require special care and attention.

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Dog Becomes Ill or Unconscious

What should be done if the dog becomes ill or unconscious during air travel?

Dogs who arrive at the airport and are ill, injured, non-responsive, or unconscious must not travel except to receive veterinary care. A licensed veterinarian should treat pets that become ill, injured, or non-responsive during travel. The carrier must determine whether any of the dogs are in physical distress and arrange for any needed veterinary care as soon as possible.

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Dog Becomes Uneasy or Aggressive 

Dogs arriving at the airport that are highly nervous or aggressive should not travel.

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Dog Sustains an Injury During Transport

What should be done if a dog is injured during air travel?

A licensed veterinarian should treat pets that become injured during travel. The carrier must determine whether any of the dogs are in physical distress and arrange for any needed veterinary care as soon as possible

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Extreme Weather or Crisis Situations

What can be done to care for dogs in an extreme weather or other crisis situation?

In extreme weather or crisis situations such as a tornado, earthquake, or airport evacuation, pet kennels should be moved to a safe location that reduces likelihood of trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.

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Dog Escapes 

What if a dog somehow escapes and is running loose?

If a dog escapes, the attendant should immediately attempt to retrieve the dog using caution. If the attendant is unable to retrieve the dog immediately, the attendant should report the dog's escape to airport security.

Practice Tests:


This lesson is designed for airport personnel who have the responsibility for the care of dogs and handling of kennels during air travel. After reviewing this lesson you will understand many factors that can improve the safety of dogs during air travel and increase the likelihood that the dogs will arrive healthy at their final destination. These factors involve the appropriate care and handling of dogs and kennels under both normal and extreme conditions.


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