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Preparing and Receiving Pets for Air Travel - Instructions (Lesson 1)

A Lesson for Airport Personnel who Receive Dogs for Air Travel


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.

Pet owners can incur significant distress if their pet becomes ill, injured, or is lost during travel. This is illustrated in an ABC news story about Kendra and Travis Parks while they were traveling with their 6 year old dog Tucker on a flight from Hawaii to Seattle. Kendra explained that their dog was in "perfect health" before they left, but was in "such grave condition" when he arrived that he had to be euthanized. Parks felt that the loss of their beloved Tucker was the airline's responsibility, and she argued that the airline's policies of treating animals "like luggage” must cease. Kendra further explained, "This dog saw me through everything. They will never know what they took from me."

This lesson is designed for airport personnel who have the responsibility of accepting or rejecting dogs and their kennels for 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 suitability of the dog’s kennel and the health and readiness of the dog for air travel.


When an owner arrives at the airport with their dog, they should be asked questions about the suitability of the dog’s kennel for air travel. These include questions about:

  • The adequacy of the kennel's size for the dog
  • The kennel's construction and quality
  • The safety and cleanliness of the kennel
  • The location of the watering and feeding containers and
  • The labeling of the kennel.

Kennel Size

To begin, make sure that the kennel is the appropriate size for the dog.

  • The adequacy of the kennel's size for the dog
  • The kennel's construction and quality
  • The safety and cleanliness of the kennel
  • The location of the watering and feeding containers and
  • The labeling of the kennel.

Construction and Quality

       Here are some items to consider when inspecting the kennel’s construction.

  • The kennel should be hard-sided with secure fasteners that are strong enough to withstand the normal rigors of air transport while containing the animal securely and comfortably.
  • The kennel should be designed so that the door can be securely closed and easily opened without requiring special or sharp tools.
  • The exterior handle(s) or handholds should be sturdy enough to:
    • enable the kennel to be lifted without tilting and
    • ensure that anyone handling the kennel can avoid unnecessary contact with the animal.
  • The kennel must have adequate ventilation with openings on three sides and the door.
  • The kennel must be free of toxic or harmful materials, treatments, paint or preservatives.

Kennel Cleanliness and Safety

       Check to see that the kennel is clean and safe.
  • The kennel must be clean and sanitized.
  • The kennel floor must be leak proof and covered with an unused litter pad or collection tray.
  • The kennel’s interior must be free of sharp points or edges that could injure the animal.
  • The design of the kennel must allow the animal to be quickly and easily removed in an emergency.
  • The kennel must be designed to prevent any part of the animal from protruding outside the enclosure in a way that could result in injury to the animal or to any nearby person or animal.

Watering and Feeding Containers

The food and water dishes must be attached to the inside of the kennel door so that they can be easily reached without opening the door. Water bottles should not be attached to the outside of the kennel.

Kennel Labeling

When evaluating kennel labels, look for the following:
  • The kennel must display labels with the words "Live Animal" in 1-inch letters on the top and at least one side of the kennel.
  • The kennel must display upright arrow labels showing the kennel’s upright position.

More than one Dog in the Same Kennel

USDA regulations require that dogs be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned before traveling. Usually only one dog is allowed in each kennel. However 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. More than one dog may be transported in the same kennel if they are traveling to research facilities and adhere to the following restrictions.
  • They are weaned puppies less than 8 weeks of age and of comparable size or;
  • They are unweaned littermates accompanied by the mother

Considering a dog's health and readiness for air travel.

Age

The dog must be old enough to travel.

USDA regulations require that dogs be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned before traveling. 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.

Breed

Some breeds of dogs may have more problems during air travel.

Extra care is required with many short-nosed dogs during air travel. Short-nosed dogs or “brachycephalic” dogs are susceptible to increased risk of heat stroke and breathing problems when exposed to stress or extreme heat. Examples of short-nosed breeds include: Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Dutch Pug, English Bulldog, English Toy Spaniel, French Bulldog, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso. These problems also occur in crossbred versions of these dogs.

Temperament

The dog should have the appropriate temperament for air travel.

Dogs traveling on airlines should be well behaved and non-aggressive.

Finally, make sure that the dog has the appropriate travel documentation.

Health and Acclimation Certificate

A Health and Acclimation certificate should be available.

The Health and Acclimation certificate should indicate the animal’s readiness for travel and any constraints (including the acceptable range of travel temperature). The Health and Acclimation certificate must be signed by a licensed veterinarian within 10 days of the animal’s travel date.

Rabies Vaccination Certificate

Some states and foreign countries require a Rabies Vaccination Certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian.

Information about the dog's owner

Also make sure that the owner information is available:

The owner information should include name, address, phone number(s) and other contact information for the owner (consignor) and the receiving party (consignee).

Routing Information

Make sure that the travel information, including the dog’s final destination, is visible.

The correct routing information should be placed in a pouch that is securely attached to the outside of the kennel. The pouch should be readily accessible to assist those who will be routing the dog to the correct destination.

Feeding and Watering Information

Information describing the feeding and watering schedule for the dog should be available.

The owner or owner’s agent must certify that each animal was offered food and water within 4 hours of delivering the dog to the airport. A document indicating the time and date that food and water were last offered as well as feeding and watering instructions for next 24-hour period should be included in the pouch on the kennel.

Document Pouch

Check to see that all documents are enclosed in a plastic pouch and securely attached to the kennel. Shipping documents should include but are not limited to: food and water instructions, health and acclimation certificate, owner information, and routing information.

Summary

In summary, when inspecting a dog kennel for air travel, check to see that:

  • The kennel is the proper size for the dog.
  • The kennel is of high quality construction with:
    • A secure latch for the door
    • A sturdy handle
    • Secure fasteners
    • Adequate ventilation
    • An unused litter pad
    • Accessible feeding and watering containers
    • Food in a plastic container.
    • Handles or handholds that will allow cargo personal to pick up the kennel without tilting it.
  • Also check to see that the kennel has proper labels including:
    • Live Animal labels on the top and side of the kennel
    • Labels indicating the direction for placing the kennel
    • An easily accessible plastic pouch containing
    • The dog owner's information
    • Health certificates, and
    • The schedule for feeding and watering the dog.

Practice Test


The lessons below are designed for pet owners who are planning to travel with their dogs and airport personnel who have the responsibility of accepting dogs for air travel. After reviewing this lesson, you will understand the factors that can improve the safety of dogs during air travel. To learn how to plan for the safety of your dog during air travel: 1) read the instructions online, 2) watch the movie, or 3) view the practice activities below.


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