Flying safely with your dog

Are you planning to go on a trip by air and wish to take your pet dog along? A lot of questions would arise in your mind on how to do it. Radha Aima shares her own experience of flying from Bombay to Delhi with pet dog Zoon. Alandmark decision was made in the Aima household. The family huddled together, behind closed doors guzzling ample cups of tea weighing the pros and cons. Should we, shouldn’t we? Could she, couldn’t she? Zoon, the luscious blond, feme fatale of Bombay and the pride of the family, was to travel by air with her tizzy headed handler?–?Radha to Delhi. Finally exhausted, it was decided that she should and could.

The next major step was getting details from various airlines for taking her across. Flying with your dog is not easy but if you have do it once, then air travel is a piece of cake. When you book your ticket, ensure that the airline books your dog as well. Excess baggage will be charged for the pet including the carrier on actual weight basis and the same will not be clubbed with free baggage allowance.

Speak to the Cargo department of the airlines to get correct carrier dimensions. Make sure that the carrier has adequate ventilation. Also see whether the carrier has a water dish attached. Once they have given you that information, you can inquire from your vet or pet store where the carrier can be purchased. Make sure that the carrier is labelled and properly identifiable both from outside and inside. Don’t forget to write in bold the name of the pet, the passenger, flight number and destination on the carrier.

It is essential that you get the carrier home a week or two prior to travel. Put a couple of your pet’s favourite toys in it with a soft, absorbent sponge mattress underneath. This is so that your pet can get familiarised with it. A few days before travel, it is best that the dog sleeps inside the carrier at night and during the day. However, on the day of travel, remove all toys and keep only the spongy mattress. This is just a precaution so that in case your pet gets stressed, he doesn’t bite and choke on anything. However, some garment of yours that is unwashed can be put inside so that the pet feels comforted having the smell of the owner.

These days, vets discourage sedating a dog for travel. However, it is best to confirm with the vet directly. You will also need a good health certificate (original) from the vet along with a valid vaccination record (copy) for the airlines. Carry these with you on the day of travel.

It is advisable to feed a light meal 5-6 hours before the flight time. Make sure that they pass urine/stools before they travel. Once you reach the airport, the dog is to be walked with a leash inside the airport and the carrier carried along. A security check will be conducted of the carrier, by the airport officials and it is only when you check in your baggage that your pet is put inside the carrier, locked, weighed and then the airlines does its job of carrying your pet to the hold. Reassure your pet before this. A hug or two will be most comforting for your pet.

Once inside the aircraft, ensure that the pilot is told that your dog is travelling in the hold. A number of national carriers have pressurised holds only meant for pets. However, if it is a small aircraft, or the destination not one of the metros, reconfirm this.

Zoon and I finally travelled by Jet Airways, and I bless them every single day till date. I had arrived at the airport with a carrier large enough for a tiger to travel in. They were absolutely brilliant when they realised that the carrier could not fit in the hold. In 45 minutes flat, their carpenters stripped the whole carrier down and reconstructed it. The staff was extremely helpful and courteous.

When we arrived in Delhi, they were kind enough to let me go and see Zoon get off loaded from the hold and be put on the trolley to be taken to the airport. Hats off to them!

With my anxiety going out of control, I finally reached Zoon’s carrier. Can you imagine my shock when I saw her fast asleep!!

Well folks that’s our real life story for domestic travel. We are now off to the United States of America. This is another ball game completely and would love to share it with you later.

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