Traveling with Your Pet
I find it interesting, in my own personal experience which is certainly not based in science, that most dog owners typically do not care for cats, while a cat owner prefers cats but will also have a dog as a pet. Does that mean cat owners are more tolerant and open? I don’t know for sure, though I am a dog lover, and fitting that profile, have a cat as a pet in our household. The good thing about that is, while I travel a lot, traveling with our cat is not something we do. It is pretty easy to have a “cat sitter” check in on the old girl. A little fresh water, replenished dry cat food, a little play time and some special cat treats and she is perfectly content. In fact, I’m pretty sure she enjoys it more when we are not around “her” home. Dogs, on the other hand, require a great deal more attention when one’s away, which is why there are so many dogs that travel. If you decide NOT to kennel your dog or cat, hire a pet sitting service, or enlist a friend or family member to care for your pet while you are away, here are some rules that make pet travel easier on your pet and you.
Airlines: Because Northwest Airlines is the major carrier out of Lansing and Detroit, I will use them as our example. The other airlines have similar rules; check with your travel professional for specifics on each carrier. Northwest has dubbed their program Priority Pet and provides for employee training at all locations, dedicated personnel, and facilities to speed connections at the hub airports, including the use of heated and pressurized luggage compartments for your pet.
There are three types of transportation modes for pets with the airline. Pets can travel inside the cabin with the owner, in the baggage compartment on the same aircraft as the owner, or as cargo without the owner. In each case, prearrangements with the airline are necessary.
For your pet to fly in the cabin, it must fit in an approved kennel, which must fit under the seat. The number of cabin pets is limited. Northwest Airlines will allow up to four kennels in coach and two kennels in first class, and the combined weight of the kennel and pet cannot exceed 15 pounds. Currently, Northwest has an $80 per kennel fee each way for a pet traveling in the cabin. Service animals (excluding service monkeys) can travel in the cabin without a kennel provided they are properly harnessed and do not sit on a seat. There is no charge for a service animal, but preregistration is required.
Animals traveling in the baggage compartment likewise must be in an approved USDA kennel. Generally speaking, the kennel must be of rigid construction with a solid top and ventilation on at least three sides. It must be of a size to allow your pet to stand or sit upright without touching the kennel top, to turn around, and to lie in a natural position. The kennel must have a metal door, two containers for food and water accessible from the outside, functioning handles, lockable wheels (or no wheels), and be properly marked on the outside with “Live Animal” and an arrow pointing up. The cost for transporting is based on the combined weight of the kennel and pet, ranging in price from $139-$359 each way. It is recommended to have your pet’s name written on the kennel, select nonstop or direct flights, choose midday flights for cold weather travel and early morning or late evening flights for hot weather. Some carriers, including Delta Airlines, will not accept luggage compartment pets between May 15 and September 15. Again, check with your travel professional for the specific requirements of each carrier as well as the destination for any local laws or rules. Hawaii is rabies free and has very strict rules regarding transporting dogs to the islands.
It is also recommended that you avoid tranquilizing your pet as high altitudes make a sedative unpredictable. Harsh sedatives can make your pet too drowsy and make the animal sick to its stomach. Check with your veterinarian prior to travel.
Cruise. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the only major cruise ship sailing from a U.S. port that welcomes your dog or cat onboard during the trans-Atlantic crossings between New York and Southampton, England. Your pet will make the crossing in comfort with a choice of two bed sizes complete with fleece blankets and nightly turndown service including freshly baked treats. Cunard’s full-time “kennel master” feeds, walks the pets and cleans the spacious kennels, of which there are a dozen. Toys keep pets entertained and pet owners may interact with their pets in indoor and outdoor walking areas adjacent to the kennel. Reservations for kennels may be made at the time of the passenger’s reservation and are based on availability. Pricing for pet cruises range from $300-$500.
Hotels. It is not uncommon to find pet-friendly hotels that not only accept your four-legged friends but also offer programs that include such services as pet grooming and massage. That would be a massage for your dog! The number of hotel facilities accepting pets with owners has increased greater than 25 percent since 2003. Two good and user-friendly websites loaded with information on hotels, cafés, attractions and other places that are pet friendly include Petswelcome.com and Dogfriendly.com.
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Michael Jackman is president of International Tours, a full-service travel agency, and president of GalaxSea Cruises, specializing in cruise vacations. Both offices are located in Okemos. A 19-year veteran of the travel industry, Jackman has received many awards and designations including Master Cruise Counselor by the Cruise Lines International Association.