Traveling With Your Pet
By Debra J. White
Vacations can be relaxing but your dog may enjoy the comfort of home more than a three day drive from Montana to the Florida Keys. Amy Shojai, certified animal behavior consultant of Sherman, Texas, says cats especially should stay behind with a sitter. If you include the family pet on your vacation, consider the following:
Vaccinations should be current.
Identification tags should be up to date in case she gets lost.
If she’s on medication, take enough for the trip.
Pack sufficient supplies such as an extra leash, bowls, litter, food and water.
Remember her toys so she’ll have something familiar at the motel or campground.
Bring plastic bags for waste removal.
Always carry a current pet photo for identification purposes
If your pet is a homebody, prepare her for the motion of your vehicle. Drive short distances each day until your dog or cat is acclimated. Dr. Velvet Lynn Edwards of Pecan Grove Animal Hospital in Tempe, Arizona, says there’s an assortment of treatments available for dogs with the symptoms of motion sickness such as drooling or vomitting. Cats rarely are affected. Cerenia works very well Edwards says. So is over-the-counter Dramamine. Edwards says that the natural treatments Rescue Remedies also offer relief. Some dogs do not vomit or drool excessively, but howl and bark while in the car. If your dog displays these behaviors they are better off at home with a sitter or in a boarding kennel.
Unrestrained or rambunctious dogs of any size in a car can be hazardous. A loose dog can easily distract the driver causing an accident. Shojai says that in the event of a front-end crash, airbags can crush dogs in the passenger seat causing serious injuries, or in some cases, death. Owners should secure them either with doggy seatbelts or dog crates. Barrier/gates also work to keep dogs secure in the vehicle’s rear.
If you must vacation with your cat, always keep her in a comfortable carrier. Cats typically do not tolerate car rides. Confinement keeps the cat safe and prevents her interfering with driving.
For potty breaks, always leash your dog. Nearly all interstate highways set aside dog walking areas. Some rest stops are properly maintained; others are not. Dog owner Vanna Condax of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says she doesn’t use roadside areas on her travels. “They always seem to be full of poop,” she says. Instead, she walks her two dogs near large unfenced areas away from busy traffic. Su Ewing of Jamestown, New York, who crossed the country twice with her two Corgis for dog shows, shares a different view. “Most of the dog areas have been pretty well kept.” Walk your dog in areas where pets are allowed and clean up after your pet
Never allow a cat to roam free in highway rest stops. Use a leash to let your cat get fresh air and exercise. Avoid feeding dogs and cats until you stop for the day. Make fresh water available, however
Only travel with pets by air if it is absolutely necessary. There is always the risk your pet may get lost or not tolerate travel in the cargo area. Before making a reservation, call the airline for their pet policies. Each one is different. For example, some airlines only allow small pets as passengers in the cabin. Others restrict flight time to a maximum of twelve hours. Restrictions apply in summer months during cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas due to the extreme heat.
Always speak to a live agent and do not rely on internet postings which are subject to change. Anticipate a surcharge for flying with pets. Animals flying in the cabin must be in a crate that fits underneath the seat in front of you. If the animal flies with the luggage, the crate must meet airline standards. It has to be sturdy, well ventilated, large enough for the animal to stand up and move around, and have a water bottle available. Tina Eacret, Director of Volunteer Services and Special Events for the Arizona Animal Welfare League, suggests checking the crate for defects. “The most common cause for escaped or injured animals during airline travel is a faulty latch,” she says. Label the crate with your name and your pet’s name. The crate should clearly state “Live Animal.” Consult the airline for the proper type of crate before making a purchase. Some airlines sell crates.
Bobbi Florio Graham who lives in Quebec had a cat named Tiki who loved to travel. “When he was just three months old I took him by plane to Florida,” Graham says. She stowed his carrier under the seat and never had problems. But there are plenty of stories of airlines losing pets.
To prevent your pet from becoming lost, book nonstop flights whenever possible. Avoid busy travel times like the holiday season. Most airlines do not fly unaccompanied pets. Old or sick animals cannot tolerate the stress of air travel. Airlines expect your pet to be current on vaccinations and properly licensed.
Domestic pets are not permitted on buses or trains, unless they are service animals defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most service animals are guide dogs for the blind or mobility impaired, but there are dogs and a few cats that qualify because they predict seizures or serve the deaf or hard of hearing. As long as the owner presents valid identification, Federal law allows service dogs, and in rare cases, service cats to travel on public transportation. Therapy animals, however, are not covered by the ADA and do not share the rights of service animals.
To accommodate travelers with dogs, many airports now offer dog walking areas. Sometimes there are flight delays and dogs must relieve themselves. If you travel with your dog, ask airport officials if there is an area reserved for dog walking.
Pet Airways is an airline just for pets, mostly dogs and cats, started a few years ago. Service is limited to a small number of American cities and the fares are a bit pricey. But if you can afford it, Pet Airways will fly your pet in style to any one of its destination cities.
<strong>Shan….if we add the Pet Airways article, we may want to mention it here. “See sidebar”</strong>
Many campgrounds permit pets, usually dogs. Some campgrounds are privately owned while others are operated by federal, state or local governments. Fees usually apply. There may be limited spaces for campers with pets so call in advance, Reservations may be needed. Dogs are required to be licensed, current on vaccinations, and leashed at all times. Campers must clean up after their dogs. Failure to abide by campground rules may result in cancellation of your stay.
Call the motel/hotel chain to ask about their pet policy. Don’t wait until the last minute. Some chains welcome pets while others do not. Expect a surcharge. Pet owners may be offered rooms reserved for smokers. Maryann Mott, a Phoenix resident and owner of two dogs, says, “Many hotels have weight limits, breed restrictions, or only a few pet rooms available, making it difficult to find a decent hotel.”
Finding a motel with multiple pets presents a challenge for dog owner Caroline Coile, who has thirteen Salukis. So she travels in her own motor home. Even that can be daunting, Coile says, for a road trip from her home in Live Oak, Florida to California. “They all started out in their built-in crates but the time each one grew weary of confinement my mom kept letting them out. Finally we had thirteen loose Salukis! It was really crowded.”
Unless you are disabled and travel with a service dog, your pet cannot accompany you inside restaurants along interstate highways or small roadside inns. In steamy summer weather, that presents a dilemma. Never lock your pet inside a hot car. Temperatures rise rapidly within minutes and the pet can succumb to a heat stroke and die. Several options are possible. You, or a travel companion, could go inside a restaurant and buy a take-out meal. Or you pack food inside coolers. That also saves money. Phoenix resident Maryann Mott and her husband usually bring their meals. “We make our first stop for lunch, look for a park where we can enjoy our meal and then walk our dogs,” she says. Mott carries no-spill water dishes in the car so the dogs can drink water during the trip. For the frequent traveler, Mott suggests bringing bottled water. She says tap water can range from “downright awful to pretty darn good.”
If you leave your pet home, ask a trusted friend, family member or neighbor to watch your dog or cat. Home is the best place for your pets, says Shojai. But if they have to be boarded, look for a reputable boarding kennel or in-home professional sitter. To find a high quality kennel or sitter, do the following:
Ask your veterinarian
Ask a fellow pet owner
Ask your groomer
Ask your dog trainer
Ask dog owners you know from the local dog park
Once you’ve made a selection ask for references and call them. Ask the pet sitter to visit your pets. Is she calm and easy around your animals? How long has she been in business? See if there are complaints against her with the Better Business Bureau. Ask about her price schedule up front and get a contract in writing. Remember she may love animals but she’s also got a business to run. Will she dispense medication to your sick cat? Make sure you get emergency contact information before leaving. If your pets do not seem comfortable around her, look for someone else.
If you decide on a boarding kennel, ask to inspect the premises. Does it smell clean? Is the lobby neat? Are the employees friendly? What is their emergency policy? Will they dispense medication? Get a contract in writing. How long have they been in business? Are there complaints with the Better Business Bureau? If you don’t feel comfortable, look around at another facility.
Have a wonderful trip. Enjoy yourself. If you take your pet, remember to plan properly. And if you leave your pet behind, make sure the sitter or boarding kennel is responsible. After all, they’re caring for a treasured member of your family.