COMMUNITY & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
for TRAVEL CONSULTANTS

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Snakes on a plane may not always be an accident, but there are better ways to transport the creatures than spilling from overhead bins.

Whether your clients are traveling by air, land or sea, they might not want to leave the comfort of home without their furry, feathery or scaly companions. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, 37 percent of pet owners take their animals on the road.

The travel industry, though, is a bit more difficult to navigate with service animals, therapy animals and pets in tow—and animals require unique travel arrangements apart from their humans.

“We have transported many different types of animals and have seen even more in airline cargo facilities,” said Susan H. Smith, president of PetTravel.com, PetTravelStore.com and PetTravelTransport.com. “Each animal has its different needs, from birds to chinchillas, to dogs and cats, to tigers and horses.”

Here’s what you need to know, to get animals off on the right paw.

Service and Therapy Animals

Under the Americans for Disabilities Act, service and therapy animals are subject to the same regulations as other animals, but are allowed to travel with clients at no additional cost.

“The airlines cannot deny a service pet from traveling,” said Deb Belchak, Lazy Dayz Travel LLC, who assisted a client traveling with her guide dog on a cruise. Neither can any cruise ship, hotel, business or attraction in the U.S.

Locations outside of the U.S. are a different story. Along with having all vaccinations and paperwork in order, service animals must be approved to travel by an international vet, and approved by the destination to land on location.

Preparation

If your clients are traveling internationally, know the requirements of the destination country. Some countries could take six months or more for pre-travel preparations, and tests and treatments may be required during specific time frames. Smith notes it’s important for pet owners to conform to these regulations, otherwise the pet will be returned to the country of origin, put into quarantine or euthanized.

No matter the destination, owners must bring their pets to the veterinarian to ensure their pet is fit for travel and carry copies of their pet’s veterinary documents.

Planning

While by law all locations must accept service animals, not all are pet-friendly. Rules and regulations abound.

Know the facilities in your client’s destination that allow pets—hotels, parks, restaurants, attractions, other businesses—and notify the locations that a pet, service animal or therapy animal is coming. It’s also a good idea to have pet hospitals or veterinary clinics on your client’s radar, in case something goes wrong.

Owners and travel agents aren’t the only ones who need to prepare for travel. Animals feel stress, too, and it’s crucial to acclimate the pet to its crate or carrier for travel. To keep their pet safe, owners should invest in high-quality traveling equipment.

“This will be its ‘safe space’ during its journey, and its owner must encourage it to use it prior to travel,” Smith said. “Make it feel comfortable in its temporary home.”

Owners must also pack for the pet. Bring the basics: a good leash, pet medication, the pet’s bed, bags to pick up after the pet and, if necessary, food and water. A current photo of the pet could also be helpful, in the event the pet gets lost.

Flying with Animals

Transportation could be the trickiest path to navigate, especially when flying. All airlines have their own rules, fees and requirements for pets. Know in-cabin and cargo-hold considerations as well as restrictions regarding breeds, routes and temperatures.

If possible, use direct flights, travel on nonpeak flights and book early. Some airlines limit the number of pets that can be carried in the cabin.

“The airlines do a remarkable job in handling these animals safely,” said Smith. “When you consider the amount of incidents involving pets in relation to the number of animals that are transported each year, it reflects the airlines’ attention that they give to their very important animal passengers.”

Clients must be proactive with their animals’ safety. Skip the sedatives, as the American Veterinary Medical Association warns tranquilizers could impede respiratory and cardiovascular function and affect balance during turbulence or rough handling, resulting in injury. And don’t be afraid to alert the airline or flight attendant to monitor temperature and pressure, if a pet is traveling in the cargo hold.

Written by Cassie Westrate.