Flying with Animals
Sometimes your travel plans involve your furry companions. Whether your accompaniment is a pet or a trained service animal, bringing an animal along on an airplane can be a complicated process.
Be sure you have completed all the necessary steps to make travel as smooth as possible for you and your animal.
When Booking a Flight
- Airline Policies
Your first point of research should be the airline's policies surrounding animal transport. Your best point of contact to learn these policies is a phone call directly to the airline.
If you are taking multiple flights, it is important to remember that each airline and specific flight should be investigated. Different planes and companies may have different policies.
Some restrictions may include the prohibition of certain animals, or the restriction of their transportation to the baggage compartment versus the cabin.
As well, certain flights may be restricted entirely for animals. Heat restrictions prohibit animals from being placed in the baggage compartment of flights to specific destinations. As well, animals may be prohibited from flying during peak holiday dates, where cargo space is limited.
Often, animals younger than a certain age are not allowed to fly, and areas such as Business Class may not be configured in a way that allows animals to accompany passengers.
- Service Animals
Certified and professionally trained service animals, travelling to accompany customers with disabilities, may be carried at no extra charge in the passenger cabin.
These animals may remain at the passenger's feet as long as they are harnessed and certified to assist the disabled customer. The certification must be from a professional service animal institution, as per the Canadian Air Transportation Regulations.
Service animals must be pre-registered for each flight with the Medical Services desk of the airline, or the applicable equivalent.
Special conditions may apply for animals designated as Emotional Support Animals, or certain specialty dogs, such as Police or Search and Rescue dogs.
If you are travelling with a support or service animal, be sure to notify your airline at the time of booking so that you can be properly accommodated.
- Canadian Export Regulations
In preparation for travel with your animal, be sure you clearly understand the Canadian laws surrounding exporting live animals. An overview of these laws can be found at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/exports/eng/1300388920375/1300388985791
- Destination Country's Import Regulations
It is important, as well, to investigate the import regulations regarding live animals in your destination of choice.
Certain countries require specific prior tests in order to avoid quarantining your animals. Be aware of any regulations or specifications for entry – have these documents ready, and carried along with your own travel documentation.
- Register Your Pet for Travel
After booking your own flight, it is recommended that you contact the airline within 24 hours in order to register your pet on the same flight. This way, you can ensure that the flight has space for your animal – if they do not, usually within 24 hours it is easier to change your booking without being subjected to expensive change and cancellation fees.
At the time of your registration, you will likely be asked for the dimensions of the carrier, as well as the weight and breed of the animal in question.
If you change your own reservation, be sure to call and change your pet's reservation as well. This will not be done automatically.
Well in advance of travel, your pet's health should be checked by a licensed veterinarian to ensure is is fit for flying. As well, there are several health certificates that may be required. These include, but are not limited to:
- Canadian International Health Certificate
The Canadian International Health Certificate (CIHC) is the typical document required for travel with pet dogs or cats. It is important, however, to ensure this document is accepted in your destination country.
If your destination country has not specified their own health certificates, the CIHC document should be completed by a licensed veterinarian as well as an official government veterinarian. This will involve the payment of a fee for their services.
The CIHC document can be found on the Government of Canada website at: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/documents/animals-certificate.
- CITES Permits & Certificates of Ownership
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permits are the travel permits applicable to exotic pets. Exotic pets include animals such as certain parrots, turtles, lizards, hybrid cats, fish and snakes.
Imports and exports of animals listed under CITES are regulated in order to counter issues in international trade and illegal poaching.
If you travel often with a CITES-listed exotic pet, you may consider obtaining a Certificate of Ownership ("Pet Passport") through Environment Canada. The Certificate of Ownership is valid for three years, and is recognized by many countries as long as the animal is travelling strictly for personal purposes.
Prior to Leaving
Pet carriers should be a comfortable and secure space for your animal. The carrier should be appropriate to the type of animal being transported – if you have questions regarding what kind of carrier is appropriate, ask a licensed veterinarian before departure.
Carriers must be spacious enough that the animal can lie down comfortably, turn around, and stand in a natural position. The carrier must also be leak-proof and adequately secure, so that the animal cannot escape on its own, can breathe at ease, and will not become injured by its surroundings.
The decision between a hard and soft case should be made based on how the animal will be transported. Soft cases are preferable only if the animal is being brought into the cabin with you.
It is also important to consider that any animal accompanying you is subject to the baggage size restraints of your airline, and any animal brought into the cabin will count as one of your allotted pieces of carry-on luggage.
In the hours leading up to your flight, if your pet is travelling via cargo or in the baggage compartment, it is your responsibility to make sure it is properly fed and hydrated. It is not the responsibility of the airline or its attendants to feed or water your animal, and placing loose food or water in the animal's carrier is often a set-up for spillage and mess.
Under no circumstances should you administer a sedative or other calming drug to your animal without the express and explicit advisement of a licensed veterinarian.
At the Airport
- Where Will They Be Kept?
When boarding your flight, your animal will be placed in one of three spaces, as pre-selected by you. This may include travelling in the cabin with you (usually available for cats and small dogs; however, airline rules vary), in the baggage compartment, or being shipped as cargo.
Regardless of your decision, you must arrive in advance of your recommended check-in time in order to see an agent at the check-in desk. Check with your airline regarding how much earlier is appropriate for your flight. Normally, passengers flying with pets cannot use Web check-in services, or self-service kiosks.
If you are planning on taking advantage of in-airport lounges, be sure to check their policies surrounding animals before entering with your pet.
At the security checkpoint, remove your pet from its carrying case and send the case through the x-rays and screening equipment. Hold your pet in your arms as you walk through the metal detector.
You are responsible for your pet's safety and behaviour through this process. At no point should you attempt to hand your pet to a screening officer, or place it on the conveyor belt with the other luggage items.
During the Flight
Be sure you fully understand the rules and regulations surrounding your animal's behavior during your flight. This may vary depending on whether they are a pet, service, or support animal.
In-flight rules may include keeping the pet harnessed at all times or completely within its carrier.
If there are passengers on your flight with severe allergies to dogs or cats, they may request a buffer zone in order to prevent a serious reaction. This may require them, or you, to be moved into a different area of the plane.
Once you have understood the rules for flying with your fuzzy friends, you should be ready to go – together.