Dogs are more and more part of the vacationing family.
But taking a pet, particularly a larger dog, is not a simple matter. Whether traveling by car or plane, the logistics and safety planning, including reservations, special charges, equipment and providing for meals, can be as complicated as for people.There are so many dogs in cars lately that the American Automobile Association has issued a new set of books: four regional directories listing only hotels and motels that welcome pets. Jill F. Mross, a spokeswoman, estimates that just under half of the AAA-approved lodging places accept pets. The books, created this year and last in response to membership demand, are drawn from from the association's more detailed tour books.
Dogs aren't just relegated to the car, however. According to estimates by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the United States Department of Agriculture, 750,000 animals a year, many of them pets, travel by air, the smaller ones in carriers in the cabin with their owners and the larger ones in cages or crates in the baggage compartment.
In addition, according to several sources, there are increasing requests from people taking cruises who want to take their dogs along.
Not all dogs should vacation with you. "On the Trail With Your Canine Companion," a book on camping by Cheryl S. Smith (Howell Book House, Simon & Schuster Macmillan) puts it this way: "If a senior canine no longer wants to be outside on frosty mornings for any longer than necessary, a cold-weather camping trip would not be a good idea."
Owners should reach a sensible conclusion about what is best for the pet, using guidance from the vet if needed. And, no matter what anyone believes, there are hazards in air travel for dogs, and decisions should be made unsentimentally. Tranquilizers, experts agree, should not be given to dogs, so if the dog's personality does not permit it to be calm in an enclosed space, let the dog stay with friends or in a kennel.
Here are guidelines for traveling with a dog, and further information sources.
Get a checkup
A dog that is going to travel by air should visit the vet for a checkup before a trip, and a certificate of good health should be obtained, signed no more than 10 days before travel; such certificates are usually good for 30 days. Some state regulations require this and thus the airlines want to know it is in hand in case it has to be checked when the animal is unloaded. Airlines, in self-protection, will turn back animals that look sick or injured or lack certificates. Hawaii has a 120-day quarantine, so it is probably futile to plan to take a pet there, unless you are moving for good. For travel to Mexico and Canada, certificates of good health and rabies inoculations are required.
The Air Transport Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, in a statement joined by the American Humane Association, noted that pug-nosed dogs such as Pekingese, bulldogs and pugs have difficulty breathing at high altitudes and do not efficiently eliminate extra body heat through respiration. These animals should not travel by air, the organizations say.
In the cabin
There are three types of pet air travel: If the dog is small, it may ride in a carrier in the cabin with its owner; a larger dog may travel in a carrier kennel or cage as baggage on the same flight as its owner, or independently as cargo. Whichever way is chosen, there will be a charge: $50 or $60 for a trip in the cabin; about $50 extra as baggage, and by the pound as cargo. A sample of cargo costs comes from Delta: for a pet and kennel weighing up to 50 pounds, the charge is $102; from 51 to 70 pounds, the charge is $144. Delta will not carry animals weighing more than 70 pounds.
For cabin-sized pets, who must travel under the seat in front of you, like carry-on luggage, a fabric carrier is a good investment, as it is for auto travel. Kathi Travers, the ASPCA's expert on animal travel, takes her Yorkie, Kookie Monster, along in a Sherpa Bag, a popular soft-sided carrier that comes in three sizes, for 6-pound, 16-pound or 22-pound pets. It is approved by most domestic airlines for in-cabin use. Because this is soft like a gym bag, the question of its height in relation to the 7- or 8-inch space under the cabin seat is not crucial; the real question is whether the animal can lie comfortably under such a seat while inside the bag. Sherpa's Pet Trading Company, (800) 743-7723.
Each airline has rules on how many animals may travel in the cabin at one time, usually one in coach and one in first class, but each flight should be checked because this depends on the type of plane. Passengers in the adjoining seats should be told that the bag contains an animal because they may have allergies requiring a seat change. The airlines require that the pet remain inside the bag during the flight.
Requirements for pet travel in the luggage compartment are more complicated than for those in the cabin with you. Dogs that are to travel in the baggage compartment, either accompanying their owners or separately, must ride in a carrier provided by the owner. Some airlines sell them, but they should not be bought at the airport at the time of boarding, but in advance. The carrier must meet Agriculture Department standards for adequate ventilation, size and handles. The crate or carrier must be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around or lie down, and be labeled "Live Animal" in letters at least one inch high with the top clearly marked. Its fastenings and door latch must be secure, and the container should not be locked in transit, in case of an emergency.
The pet should wear a collar with complete identification and license tags. The name of the pet, the owner's address and a phone number at the destination should be written out and securely taped to the carrier - not as a tag, which may be torn off in handling, Ms. Travers said. There should be someone to answer the phone number given at around the time the animal is due to arrive.
The dog should be fed and given water within four hours of departure. A signed statement to this effect is required. A water bowl and food dish should be inside the carrier, and dry food in a plastic bag should be taped to the top of the container. The carrier may not be placed under or above any other baggage. Ms. Travers suggests filling the water dish with ice cubes or freezing the container of water, so the liquid will not slop out but will melt for the animal to drink in flight. Animals that have been trained to drink from an athletic water bottle can travel with this attached.
Something absorbent like a beach towel should be placed inside the carrier, in case of accidents.
The difficult part of sending a dog by air is the beginning and end of the trip, when the kennel is being moved around the airport and put into the plane's luggage compartment. The Department of Agriculture has firm rules on exposure to temperature extremes, and if these are likely to be violated because of climate or layover schedules, the airline will refuse to carry the animal.
An animal may not be subjected to temperatures of less than 45 degrees for more than 45 minutes. However, a veterinary certificate may be obtained saying that the animal is able to withstand lower temperatures. At the other end, an animal may not be left for 45 minutes or more in a temperature of 85 degrees or more, with no exceptions.
A golden retriever belonging to a New York youth died in 1988 after an hour in the luggage compartment on the ground in Phoenix, Ariz., when the outside temperature was 115 degrees. When the owner sued in court four years later, all he could collect was $1,250, the maximum amount allowed domestically for lost luggage, because the pet was carried as luggage and the owner did not buy additional insurance. The best way to avoid heat problems is to move the animal early or late in the day, when the heat is less extreme.
Those taking their dogs to Europe - except to Britain, which imposes a six-month quarantine on animals - should check with the appropriate consulate on rules. Ms. Travers of the ASPCA believes that airline baggage handlers in Europe are not as sensitized to pets' needs as in the United States, and she urges a careful decision.
All the experts emphasized that a dog not accustomed to traveling in a container should be acclimated to it in advance, and not be placed in a strange container at the airport. Ms. Travers suggests placing something that smells familiar in the case when the animal is getting used to the carrier.
Here is a quick roundup of pet travel guides. In all cases, families moving with pets should make reservations and tell the clerk that the dog will be along. Because many travelers have serious allergies, some lodging places have a limited number of rooms where dogs may stay, and the family should be sure one of these is available.
The four AAA Petbooks, "Accommodations Offering Facilities for Your Pet," cover the Southeast, the Northeastern States and Provinces, the Central States and Provinces and the Western States and Provinces. Each small volume has about 2,500 listings. Some local auto clubs give these away to members, others sell them. They may include information as much as a year old. A colleague said he called two listings only to be told that neither motel accepted pets. The books cost $3.98 each, plus $1 per volume shipping, from N.A. Daniels, AAA Publishing, Heathrow, Fla. 32746.
"Take Your Pet U.S.A.," compiled and published by Arthur Frank, is in its sixth edition. This fat paperback lists 4,000 lodgings that welcome pets, state by state, including whether the place has an exercise area. It also lists nearby veterinarians; $11.95, plus $2.50 shipping from Artco Offset, 12 Channel Street, Boston, Mass. 02210; (800) 255-8038.
Frommer's paperback series, "On the Road Again With Man's Best Friend," by Dawn and Robert Habgood, covers the Mid-Atlantic, the Southeast, New England, California and the Northwest. There are "selective" descriptions of bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels and resorts that welcome pets, with an emphasis on more expensive places. New York, for example, lists such top hotels as the Carlyle, the Four Seasons, the Regency and the Westbury. The newest editions are California and the Northwest; revised editions of the others are due in the next year and a half; $14.95.
A single copy of "Air Travel for Your Dog or Cat," may be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to the Air Transport Association, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20004.