Home Krishna Lana Mae Agility Training News Flying Dogs Puppy Shopping Information

Flying your puppy or dog

General Information

Flying your puppy or dog can be confusing and intimidating.  And there are a lot of

misconceptions about the rules, so I thought it would be helpful to put together a

reference document for myself and others when shipping puppies, flying to a National

Specialty, or even importing a puppy from overseas.

I’ll start with some background.  There are five organizations that define the

requirements for how your ship your puppy.

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

The airline company

Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)

Your state government

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - importing puppies from abroad only.

IATA manages how all air cargo is shipped around the world.  They ensure that all

hazardous materials are managed safely to protect workers and the public.  IATA sets

the minimum requirements for shipping dogs as cargo and although all airlines must

meet these minimums, the carriers may even have more stringent requirements.  Click

here to see IATA pet shipping regs.  The page includes links to crate specifications and

infomation regarding the pet passport used by the European Union.

Things to know about IATA, you cannot modify the shipping container for air travel.  It

MUST be assembled with original parts.  For example zip ties instead of screws to hold

air kennels together is a modification and you risk being rejected if you use zip ties. 

Attaching anything to the crate with rivets, screws, or bolts is a modification as well

and again you risk rejection.

Here is a link to AKC’s document for air carrier pet policies.  Note this document only

applies to domestic airlines.  Air carrier pet policies.  For example American Airlines will

accept pets for travel within North America, but does not accept pets for flights across

the Atlantiic.  Seat guru has information about pet policies as well.  Though you must

check the policy for each airline individually, such as for Finnair here.

TSA requires that all unaccompanied animals coming from overseas be tendered by an

IATA certified shipping agent.

Most states have vaccination requirements for animals traveling across state borders. 

While this is not generally enforced, it is something to be aware of.

Lastly, if you are importing a puppy from overseas, the CDC has requirements for rabies

vaccinations.  Click here for that policy.  My Finnish import was 8 weeks old,

unvaccinated and from a rabies free country.  It seemed too easy that I didn’t have any

importation requirements for her.  However, it really was THAT easy.

Other considerations, weather embargos can throw a wrench into things.  Generally

airlines reject animals if weather is too hot or too cold.  You may not expect Chicago to

see 80 ºF in March.  But it can happen and when it does, your puppy is going to have to

wait for cooler temperatures for his own safety.  Even if you’ve gotten everything in

perfect order, you’ll have to be flexible and if possible choose flights that are likely to

have favorable temperaures for the time of the year.

 Another note on international travel, particularly if you transfer airlines.  When I

imported my puppy from Finland I flew on Lufthansa-United from Helsinki to Chicago

and then on American from Chicago to Dallas.  The puppy's health certificate was in

Finnish.  That's not a problem when your airport of origin is Helsinki, but it's another

matter entirely at the American Airlines counter at O'Hare.  Fortunately I had what was

obviously a health certificate and the pet passport used in the EU was in English.  So I

had documentation that shots were current.

Next, when you import a dog or puppy, once you have the animal go to the CDC office in

the baggage area.  They will review your documentation for rabies vaccination, and if

necessary, the confinement agreement.  Then they will stamp your customs declaration

form.  At that point you proceed to the exit and the customs official will take your

declaration form.

Traveling with a dog as excess baggage - domestic and

international

When making your flight arrangements consider the weather along your route.  Try to

schedule flights to avoid extreme temperatures, generally about 80 ºF or below 10 ºF. 

Next, make a reservation but do not purchase your ticket.  Call the airline directly to

see if there is room for the pet on the flights you've chosen.  If so, add them to your

reservation and purchase your ticket.

Read through the air carrier pet policy to confirm that they don’t have any unusual

requirements.  The dog must travel in a crate that meets IATA requirements and the

airline requirements.  The crate must have live animal labels, absorbant material in the

bottom and food and water dishes secured to the body of the crate.  (Usually the door.) 

Next you need a health certificate for the dog; typically within 10 days of travel.

Generally it takes about fifteen minutes to check a dog in, though it can take up to half

an hour so be prepared.  In the US TSA will inspect your crate and it may be quite a long

distance from where you collect your boarding pass.

A note on crate size.  IATA specifies that the dog must be able to stand up and turn

around in the crate without slouching.  Technically it means that the crown of the head

is below the top of the crate.  With Belgians, some agents will go beyond this

requirement and insist that the ears not touch the top of the crate.  This exceeds the

written language and intent of IATA, however, it is not an arguement you're likely to win

at the airport gate.

I've shipped an adult dog and traveled with my dog(s) about a dozen times and I've

never had any problems.  I think having a reasonably well trained dog and a clean, well-

labelled crate make a good impression and the gate agent is a bit less likely to nitpick

ear tips brushing the top of the crate.

Traveling with puppies in cabin, domestic and international

Temperature embargos shouldn't apply to carry on dogs, but many airlines will apply

those rules, so bear timing in mind when making your flight arrangements.Try to

schedule flights to avoid extreme temperatures, generally about 80 ºF or below 10 ºF. 

As above, make a reservation but do not purchase your ticket.  Call the airline directly

to see if there is room for the pet on the flights you've chosen.  If so, add them to your

reservation and purchase your ticket.

The dog must travel in a crate that meets IATA requirements and the airline

requirements.  Several manufacturers produce sturdy pet bags, and airlines may sell

them at the counter or over the internet.  Next you need a health certificate for the

dog.

Tips for puppies in cabin.  The space under the seat is a bit tight on domestic flights,

and is smaller on international flights.  Consequently the puppy will have limited ability

to move and poor air circulation.  It can become quite warm in the carrier, even in

winter.  You cannot bring frozen gel packs on the plane, but you can bring a small,

battery operated fan and an ice bag.  Cooperative flight attendents may be willing to

give you ice for the bag to help keep puppy cool.

You may not have much luck taking the puppy into the bathroom for potty breaks, even

if the puppy is contained in the carrier.  So be prepared that this might happen.

Check the weight limit at the individual airline you're using.  There is some variability,

but in general, the dog and crate together must weigh less than 20 pounds.

Shipping dogs and puppies as cargo - domestic

TSA requires the use of a shipping agent when importing puppies into the

US.  I have no experience with this and cannot provide any guidance at

this time.

I’ve only shipped one adult dog domestically, and it wasn’t very different from traveling

with a dog.  Be sure to have the correct address for the cargo drop off when you make

your reservation.

Contact the cargo branch of the airline you wish to use to transport your dog.  As much

as possible try to schedule flights to avoid extreme temperatures, generally about 80 ºF

or below 10 ºF.

Read through the air carrier pet policy to confirm that they don’t have any unusual

requirements.  The dog must travel in a crate that meets IATA requirements and the

airline requirements.  The crate must have live animal labels, absorbant material in the

bottom and food and water dishes secured to the body of the crate.  (Usually the door.) 

Next you need a health certificate for the dog; typically within 10 days of travel.

NOTE: In my experience and from second hand information, Cargo terminals are much

more knowledgable in regard to crate size and proper documentation.  They are likely

to look more closely at your health certificate and confirm the rabies vaccination.  And

they agents are less likely to have overly strict or unusual interpretations of the

requirements.

IATA specifies that the dog must be able to stand up and turn around in the crate

without slouching.  Technically it means that the crown of the head is below the top of

the crate.  

If you have questions or comments regarding this guidance, please contact me so that I can

incorporate the feedback!

Kristen

You’ll have to hand type my address: kaypee65@yahoo.com

Flying Dogs