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International air travel with your pet: what to expect

Travelling by air with your pet has been a cause for worry for many pet parents. However, with an increase in the number of people who travel with their pets, airlines and airport authorities have become all the more accommodating. So pet parents, there is no need to worry! The policies and regulations related to travelling with pets may seem very strict, but they have been put in place keeping in mind the safety of your pet. We have discussed domestic air travel within India in a previous write up. So let’s talk about international travel now.

Before Travel

Every country has different laws that pertain to pets and pet travel. It is thus of vital importance that you make yourself aware of these regulations. Some of the things to consider are the weight, size as well as number of pets you are planning to take with you. A talk with the Customs Department of the country of destination will also clear up any other questions you might have. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) has strict guidelines regarding the types of crates that the pet in question needs. Equally important are the documents, microchip identification details, health certificates as well as a ‘fit to fly’ certificate from your pet’s vet. We say this because countries that have strict laws won’t allow your pet in if these documents are not in place. And since the last thing you want is to have you pooch or kitty stranded in an airport somewhere, you need to ensure you know every procedure and policy and follow it.

Some countries have strict laws and will require you to keep your pet in quarantine for a specified amount of time. This is over and above all the documents and certificates you have to provide for your pet. You obviously are allowed to visit them during this period, but you can also imagine how stressful this can be on your beloved pet. So please also ensure that you are aware of the quarantine policies in the country of destination.

During Travel

Once again, as per the laws of the country of destination as well as the airline you choose, the following are the ways in which your pet will be allowed to accompany you:

  • Carried on board and placed under your seat
  • Checked in as baggage
  • Checked in as/shipped as cargo

Due to the limited amount of space in the aircraft, only smaller animals are allowed to be carried on board. Most regulations specify that the weight of the pet combined with the weight of the IATA approved crate is not to exceed 8kgs! It is thus safe to say that most airlines don’t allow pets to be carried on board with you. The only exception to this rule is if you have a guide dog (seeing-eye/hearing/medical assistance trained) with you. These pets are accepted free of charge in the cabin with the passenger. Weight, size and breed limitations do not apply here. Nor is the need for a crate. Once again, you need to check with the proper authorities as well as the airline you plan to take as to the documentation needed for guide dogs.

Just like domestic air travel, the IATA approved crates need to be used. The IATA approved crate should be big enough for your pet to lie down, stand as well as turn around comfortably. Furthermore, the crates have to be well-ventilated, escape-proof as well as be made of non-chewable material. They will also need to be labelled with information relevant to the handling of the pet. Since we are talking about international travel here, the journey is likely to last for a longer duration. The crate will also then need to be equipped with water and dry food containers. And due to the age old rule of ‘what goes in must come out’, the crate will also need to be lined with absorbent material.

Please note that the customs department of the country of destination as well has the airline have a right to detain your pet if their specifications are not met. So please ensure you have all the right documents and equipment in order.  There are many pet relocation agencies that help make this transition easier for you and your pet. Whether you decide to hire someone or do this all on your own, we believe that it is important that you as well should be aware of every step, procedure as well as regulation.

Have you made a trip with your pet recently? Was it domestic or international travel? We would love to hear from you. So please reach out to us and let us know what the experience was like for you.

pic courtesy: sunsetveterinaryclinic

By Crazy Dog Lady

mother to two crazy labrador boys….writer, entrepreneur and nuts about all things dogs.

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