Come Fly With Me


A few hints from BCR first

As an organization that ships or receives dogs almost daily now it seems (minimally one a week), we would suggest not worrying about feeding or watering the dog during transport. The problems with the food and water are inevitable, it makes the dog more uncomfortable during the trip (if water spills or leaks or the increased need to go to the bathroom), and it is dangerous for dogs to be consuming things during such stressful times. We regularly ship dogs from the West coast of the US to Florida without feeding or watering them at all. The dogs can certainly go 10 hours without food and water. Besides, it just gives the airline handlers one more excuse to open a crate if they feel the "need to feed" or are worried about the water leaking in the crate. Anything to prevent them from even attempting to open the crate during transport is a good thing. (They're not supposed to but it does happen). We simply put the plastic ones inside, empty and strapped to the upper part of the crate's side. (Now if the dog were traveling to Japan, this might be different). How to keep your dog from chewing on them is a different story. The dishes are there in case there is an extreme delay and they have to give some water to the dog during the layover. Basically we put them in there to satisfy airline regulations (you might want to check on the regulations against having "homemade" setups for this). We also do *not* tranquilize any of the dogs for transport.

The best way to ship a dog is counter-to-counter. Transport prices are something like $117 dollars for dogs and crates under 50 lbs. $167 for 50-70 lbs. and $227 for 70lbs+ with USAir. Other carriers can be a bit more, depending on several factors. If we ship the dogs cargo instead of counter-to-counter the rates drop by about $30-40 a dog. Shipping is the same cost no matter where you are, so location is irrelevant to the decision. You can ship a dog from Washington state, 2,000 miles away for the same price as one from Orlando, 200 miles away. Go figure. The heat can be a problem, as some airports put an embargo on shipping dogs at certain times. Counter-to-counter avoids this problem but if you're shipping the dog cargo, you need to check with the airport first before heading out. The following issues are also relevant to shipping your dog so we will let Gayle explain them.



by Gayle Hickey

Here are some tips to ensure a safe trip for your pet.

- Take a direct flight. If you have no other choice in the matter, then be ready to get some exercise when you land in the city where your connecting flight is (I'll explain later).

-Try to get a wide-body plane. Ask what type of plane you'll be flying in. If you don't know which plane is which, then ask them if it is a wide-bodied jet (for instance, a 767 isn't - it's a cigar, a DC-10 is).

-If you are flying in warm climates, or during the warm season, fly only in the morning or late in the evening. If you fly later on in the afternoon, the cargo hold, where your dog will be staying, could easily become overheated when the plane is waiting to take off, or when awaiting to "park" after landing. Don't think it's OK to fly in the early evening in the warm season, as the cargohold has had a chance to warm up all day and retain heat, then the hold will "give off" it's heat at night - we don't want overheated animals. The scary part in the cargohold is awaiting to take off and after landing.

- Now that you made your reservation, you'll need to get your dog used to a crate, if it hasn't already. If your dog isn't used to a crate, get a good sized one - for a Border Collie, you could get a #300 size, but I'd recommend a #400, for some room, as well as giving more "breathing" space for your dog. The new Furrarri crates are pretty and classy looking, but the good old VariKennels are just as good, if not better, as the Furrarri crates have dark colors on the bottom half of the crate, which, again, tends to retain heat more easily than the light colored VariKennels.

-If your dog isn't used to a crate, get him used to it by throwing food in it while saying "kennel" (or whatever you'd like to say). Praise him when he goes in for the little cookie and then say "come" to get back out of the crate - don't slam that door on him yet. Give him his meals every time in the crate. Make it a good place to be. After a couple of weeks of this, then perhaps one time, close the door while he is eating (or when you are giving him his favorite chew toy, pig's ear, whatever). Then open up the door shortly thereafter and then slowly lengthen the time in the crate. If you can get him used to sleeping in there at night, that would be optimal.

-Decorate your kennel. You read that right. I'm not saying decorate it to make it look pretty for your dog. Put stuff on the outside so you'll be able to see your kennel out there as it is being loaded onto the plane. Some ideas: get some bright fluorescent tape from the hardware store and put it all over the top, sides and ends of it. I also put reflectors on each side of my crate, so the light will reflect easily and I can easily notice it. People laugh at my crate - they say I may have gone too far, but no one can miss my crate from a mile away, which is what I want when flying! Get good bolts and tighten them well. Also get some bungie cords as you'll be using them to secure your dog in there (we'll talk about how later). Put something in the crate that your dog likes to have with him (some of them like a chew toy person gives them their stuffed bear - and the dog sleeps with it and doesn't chew it up), along with clothing that smells like you.

-Now your dog is used to the kennel and you've decorated it so you can't miss seeing it 500 feet away (yes ...make it tacky looking - that way the airline employees won't miss or forget your crate either). It's time to go to the airport. Get there at least an hour before the plane takes off. Go up to the ticket counter to check in your baggage. They'll then call up someone to come take your dog away. I always keep my dog until about 25 minutes until the plane's scheduled to take off. Don't let them push you into taking your dog earlier than that. They can keep your crate by the side of the counter and tell them you'll be back 25 minutes before the plane's departure. Walk your dog around and potty him one last time. There's always some greenery at the airport - some airports actually have a potty area for the dog - just ask someone there. Then when it's time, put your dog in the crate. Some people actually freeze water in their dish - if it's a long trip, you can do that, otherwise, if it's a short couple of hours, they'll be OK. If anything, the water tends to spill everywhere and gets the crate wet. Have dog food (and water, if you can) attached on the outside of the crate. I have a "Crate Mate," which is kind of a backpack of heavy-duty material that is bolted on the back of my kennel and I put a sealed container of water in there, along with food and a note about where to contact you, the dog's health certificate, etc.

-I also recommend having an ID tag on your dog. There's one that I purchased at a pet shop that is a little tube that you screw open and close and you put paper in there, so you can always change the address in there. We do this because a dog can (and has) gotten loose and this way he'll have identification on him. I put on the ID, my name and the address where I'm going, along with the dates that I'll be at that address and then I put my home address and phone # to contact me after I have taken my trip. I also put reward of $100 for the return of this animal. A check made out with the amount and the name left blank can also work. It's an up-front reward and more likely to get results than a simple empty promise. Even if the check is cashed without returning the dog, you'll have the person's name and account, and a head-start on tracking your dog down.

Now you put your dog in the crate. You could tip the guy that is taking your dog. I always have given the guy a few dollars, saying that he is supposed to take good care of this dog. I don't know if it has helped, but it certainly can't hurt. This is when you'll use the bungie cords. I hook one from one side of the kennel on the metal grate to the door and do the same on the other side. That way, if the door flings open at anytime because of an impact in some way, the door will remained closed for safety's sake. I have a friend (with a BC, naturally), who was taking their BC to New York from Seattle, via TWA/St. Louis to be on David Letterman - stupid pet tricks (the dog loads, cocks and then punches an old fashioned flyball box and catches the ball). I don't mean to go off on a story, but the dog was somehow loose on the runway at St. Louis and my friends overheard the people talking about a loose dog on the runway and that it may have to be shot because it was becoming a traffic hazard. When they realized it was their dog they were talking about, they were frantic and were begging TWA to let them go out there and call the dog to them. FAA regulations don't allow anyone but employees to go out there. A TWA employee heard their wishes and cries and ended up running out there in a little truck and opened the side of the door and said the dog's name and "kennel" to him. The dog ran out of the long grass next to the runway and jumped into the car. Sad to say, the employee was fired and the dog couldn't function when he got on the Letterman set - the experience really wiped the dog out. What they think happened is someone must have opened up the door to pet the dog and the dog jumped out - they couldn't imagine the door opening up on it's own. Whatever happened, that is why we put bungies on, as it makes it harder for anyone wanting to pet or get at the dog. Some people put locks on the crate, but that worries me in case an emergency happens and someone else needs to get the dog out of the crate.

-Once you see them take the dog away, you run to your plane's boarding gate. Don't board yet, though. Stand there and watch to see your dog being loaded. They are supposed to be loaded in the front cargo hold (where the pilots keep their luggage). They are usually loaded on the right side of the plane. Don't get onboard until you see your dog boarded. This is very important. Here is where trouble can happen. When they announce last boarding call and you still haven't seen your dog get on the plane yet, walk up to the gate attendant and explain the circumstances. I will assure you they will say "I am sure the dog is on the plane - go ahead and board." This is where you need to be a "little" assertive and kindly explain that you won't get on the until you know positively that your dog is on the plane. Ask her to have an employee go down there and check the cargo hold and to come back and describe what your dog (and/or crate) looks like. Don't give them any information about what kind of dog you have, etc. If they come back with a description that satisfies you, you can then get on. Northwest has worked this out by giving you that sheet once your dog is on board. If they still give you any hassle on this, then you kindly whip out your attorney's business card and tell them that perhaps they would like to speak to this person. One person did this and the airline promptly obliged to investigate whether the dog got onboard or not.

-If you see your dog's crate just sitting there (as they are usually the last to be boarded) and it is in direct sun - don't feel funny about approaching an employee of the airline to radio down below to move your pet into a cooler area. Again, the best thing is to not fly when it is warm, period.

Now ... if you have a direct flight, skip the next paragraph.

Otherwise, as your plane descends, explain to the flight attendant that you need to be one of the first people off this plane in order to catch a connecting flight and that you need to be able to see your dog unload and load back onto the next flight. If they hem and haw at you, be assertive (in a gentle way) of course. If you handle it right, you'll be one of the first people off (getting a seat that is closest to the front, besides first class, helps on this as well). When you land, stand and watch to see your dog come off the plane. If you didn't, don't let that plane take off until you confirm with the airline your dog came off the plane. Don't wimp out on this. We did once and this is where a terrible incident happened. The people assured the dog was off the plane, but it wasn't and the plane took off, with the dog on it. This poor dog flew from Seattle to Reno, then up to Portland and then to San Francisco and then to Reno again. It had to compete the next day, too. It was a terrible day, as they couldn't "find" the dog for a few hours until the plane landed in Portland. So, don't be afraid to deal with this - you could easily use the story above and say you don't want it to happen to your dog too (the airline, incidentally was Alaska, who is suppose to be known for it's great job in handling animals). Once you see your dog get off the plane, then you hightail it up (this is where your exercise for the day comes in) to your connecting flight and then sit and watch to see your dog get on this plane too. If the connecting flight is a long wait, you can easily request to get your dog out of the crate and walk him yourself. When you see your dog get on the connecting flight, you then board yourself. If you don't, follow the directions stated above.

When you are starting to land at your final destination, ask the stewardess if this plane will be grounded at this stop, or is it a continuing flight. If it will be grounded, then relax. If not and the plane will be continuing on to another city, then ask to be one of the first people off to watch your dog unload (follow directions on the above paragraph here).

Once you see your dog get unloaded, you can then march down to the luggage area and they should bring your dog out where they bring in oversized luggage, etc.

Yes, your dog will be thrilled to see you. Some people tranquilize their dogs before putting them on the plane, but I hesitate on that - just like people get "drunker" twice as much up in the sky because of the altitude, I don't know how bad it could affect the dog. There can also be paradoxical effects on some dogs - the opposite reaction. Just a thought on that.

Good luck and as I mentioned, I used to worry about flying my dog, but I feel more confident from following the above advice and haven't had a problem since that one time (and that wasn't my dog, it was my friend flying with me, luckily, my dog was unloaded safely!)




The USDA regulations for transportation of dogs and cats are part of the Animal Welfare Regulations which are printed in the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 9, Section 3.1. The main points if you're worried about the conditions under which your dog travels are:

1. Carriers and intermediate carriers must not accept a dog or cat for transport in commerce more than 4 hours before the scheduled departure time of the primary conveyance. However, this can be extended up to 2 hours by agreement with the consignor and the carrier or intermediate handler.

2. Carriers and intermediate handlers must not accept a dog or cat for transportation in commerce unless their animal holding area meets the minimum temperature requirements provided in 3.18 and 3.19 (see Item 6 below - 45 to 85 degrees F), or unless the consignor provides them with a certificate signed by a veterinarian and dated no more than 10 days before delivery of the animal to the carrier or intermediate handler for transport in commerce, certifying that the animal is acclimated to temperatures lower than those required in 3.18 and 3.19. Even if the carrier or intermediate handler receives this certification, the temperatures the dog or cat is exposed to while in a terminal facility must not be lower than 45 F for more than 4 consecutive hours, nor lower than 45 F for more than 45 minutes when moving dogs or cats to or from terminal facilities or primary conveyances.

A copy of the certification must accompany the dog or cat to its destination and must include the following information:
(1) The consignor's name and address;
(2) The tag number or tattoo assigned to each dog or cat under 2.38 and 2.50;
(3) A statement by a veterinarian, dated no more than 10 days before delivery, that to the best of his or her knowledge, each of the dogs or cats contained in the primary enclosure is acclimated to air temperatures lower than 50 F; but not lower than a minimum temperature, specified on a certificate, that the attending veterinarian has determined is based on generally accepted temperature standards for the age, condition, and breed of the dog or cat; and
(4) The signature of the veterinarian and the date the certification was signed.

3. Primary conveyance - Air. During air transportation, dogs and cats must be held in cargo areas that are heated or cooled as necessary to maintain an ambient temperature that ensures the health and well-being of the dogs and cats.

4. Primary conveyance - Surface (motor vehicle, rail, and marine). During surface transportation, auxiliary ventilation, such as fans, blowers or air conditioning, must be used in any animal cargo space containing live dogs or cats when the ambient temperature within the animal cargo space reaches 85 F. Moreover, the ambient temperature may not exceed 85 F for a period of more than 4 hours, nor fall below 45 F for a period of more than 4 hours.

5. Ventilation. Auxiliary ventilation, such as exhaust fans, vents, fans, blowers, or air conditioners, must be used when the ambient temperature in the animal holding area is 85 F or higher. The ambient temperature in the animal holding area must not fall below 45 F or rise above 85 F for more than four consecutive hours.

6. Temperature. The ambient temperature in an animal holding area containing dogs or cats must not fall below 45 F or rise above 85 F for more than four consecutive hours at any time that dogs or cats are present.

7. The dog or cat must not be exposed to an ambient air temperature above 85 F for a period of more than 45 minutes while being moved to or from a primary conveyance or a terminal facility.

8. Transporting devices must be covered when the outside temperature falls below 50 F. The dogs or cats must not be exposed to an ambient temperature below 45 F for a period of more than 45 minutes, unless they are accompanied by a certificate of acclimation to lower temperatures.


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Page last updated October 1, 1998. All material Copyright © 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc.
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