You will find below the information required to assist you in making transportation arrangements for dogs and cats with the airlines.

Key considerations prior to booking

When do you want your pet to travel?

If you ship your pet as air freight, check with the airline to ensure the air freight facility is open so your pet may be claimed by the consignee. Note that it is preferable to ship your pet on week days as all staff are working and liaison is easier all along the route.

Contact the airline you have selected to confirm that they accept your pet on the day and flight that you prefer. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight so the more advance notice you give them the better it is.

Transport of snub nose dogs, such as boxers, pugs, bulldogs and Pekinese, in hot season is not recommended. These animals have difficulty in maintaining a normal body temperature in hot weather.

Where is your pet traveling to?

Is your pet going to travel within your own country, or will it be traveling internationally? Do you intend to break the journey, or stopover at an intermediate station? What is the pet's final destination?

  • Check the country specific regulations for shipping pets on the second tab of this page

What is your pet's size and weight?

Only small dogs and cats can go in the cabin. Some airlines may not even allow them in, and will transport them as special baggage in a heated and ventilated hold. Do not worry, cats and dogs actually travel better this way because it is quieter and they will rest in a darkened environment.

Do you have a suitable container for your pet?

It is important you purchase the right sized container for your animal. Airlines use the following indications to ensure the animal has enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand and sit erect, and to lie in a natural position.

 

Pet Container Dimensions

Guidance for Dimensions of Container

The data presented above gives a guideline for ascertaining the correct size for a container. They relate to an animal standing in a natural position.

The calculated dimensions are internal container dimensions.

A = length of animal from tip of nose to base/root of tail.

B = height from ground to elbow joint. A+1⁄2 B = length of container.

C = width across shoulders or widest point (whichever is the greater). Cx2 = width of container.

D = height of animal in natural standing position from top of the head or the ear tip to the floor

(whichever is higher) / height of the container (top flat or arched)

Minimum internal container dimensions:

A + ½ B = Length C x 2 + Width D = Height

Snub nosed breeds require 10% larger container

Notes:
Measurements A, B, C and D for determining the container dimensions must related to the largest animal.

The width of the container being calculated as:

  • Two animals: C x 3
  • Three animals: C x 4

The height and length are determined the same as for a single animal.

Note: IATA does not certify, approve, endorse, or sell any particular pet container manufacturer, brand , make, or model. Equally so, IATA does not offer, solicit, endorse, or approve any particular pet or puppy transport or relocation services, regardless of whether these be offered via email or the internet. Readers should pay attention to fraudulent offerings that claim the opposite.

Should you decide to build your own wooden crate, verify with the airline if they accept custom build containers. For certain dogs, airlines may mandate the use of containers of a different more sturdy design than those of Container Requirement 1 (CR1). It is equally important to ensure that all locking mechanisms function properly and that the animal can not distort, gnaw at or push in/out the wire mesh or the pieces holding the mesh of the door. So, the mesh must be firmly attached to the door, not stapled.

Food and water containers (troughs) accessible from outside the container are required. The carrier, or government agency, may require that additional food be provided in a pouch attached to the container with feeding instructions.

How many animals will be traveling?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Welfare Act (AWA) states that "no
more than two live puppies or kittens, 8 weeks to 6 months of age, that are of comparable size and weighing 20 lb. (9 kg) or less each, may be transported in the same primary enclosure via air carrier." This is a good practice to follow for all animal shipments, no matter what country they are traveling in.

Remember, animals may become stressed and aggressive when traveling by air and should not be placed in the same container unless they are young puppies or kittens. Animals which share the same household may become stressed and aggressive towards each other when traveling by air.

European Union

The European Union (EU) makes a distinction between commercial and non-commercial pet imports. It furthermore distinguishes between movements within European states or coming in from third countries. The following links provide more information about non-commercial pet imports from third countries and from within the EU:

Other countries

Airlines have specific procedures in place for the acceptance, handling and delivery of your
animal. The environmental needs of the animals are duly considered during loading, off-loading or at a transit stop.

Animal shipper

You can either find an animal shipper who can make all the necessary reservations and take full charge from collecting your pet, boarding it if need be, taking it to the airport and have it met at the other end and delivered to destination.

In some countries, this may be the easiest and surest method and some airlines will not accept animals handled by anyone other than a shipper. The airlines can usually give you a list of shippers with whom they work.

But it is possible that you can do all this yourself. Check with the airline for any special requirements for shipping your pet.

Health certificate

Most airlines require a health certificate for any animal they are transporting, whether in the cabin or as an unaccompanied shipment. Health certificate is delivered by your veterinarian and stipulates that the animal is healthy and fit to fly.

Flight confirmation

Contact the airline you have selected to confirm that they accept your pet on the day and flight that you prefer. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight so the more advance notice you give them the better it is.

Reconfirm at least 48 hours before departure.

Check-in

Find out how soon before the flight you have to check in. Pets become stressed with all the bustle at an airport, so keep it to a minimum.

  • If your pet is allowed in the cabin, check in as late as possible.
  • If it is going in the hold, check in early so that it can go to the baggage area and be put somewhere quiet and dimly lit in order to relax.

Train your animal to its new surroundings

Let it become familiar with the crate or kennel a few weeks or months before your planned departure. Purchase one in advance and get your animal used to being confined in it. Remember taking an animal out of its natural environment or surroundings is by definition stressful.

Animals behave perfectly fine when accustomed to the kennel or crate they are transported in. As a responsible pet owner, this responsibility is often overlooked.

Healthy recommendations

  • Reduce the quantity of food the day before but give it enough water
  • Take your dog for a walk before leaving for the airport and again before check-in
  • A light meal 2 hours before tendering the animal to the carrier will help to calm it and is a legal requirement in the United States.

Proper Identification

Remember to make sure that your pet is properly identified (e.g. microchip). Affix two pieces of identification onto the collar - a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.

Sedation & use of tranquilizers on pets

It has been a long standing practice of IATA and its constituent carriers to discourage the use of sedatives and tranquilizers in animals to be transported either as cargo or as cabin baggage due to the potential for adverse effects during transport. This view is endorsed by veterinary organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In general, these drugs are administered prior to or during air transport to minimize the potential for undesirable behavior. Most commonly, drugs such as acepromizine which is in the phenothiazine class of drugs or benzodiazopam have been commonly prescribed. Of the two, acepromizine has the longest history of use given its rapid action and neuroleptic mode of action. It depresses motor activity as well as the sympathetic nervous system. Animals administered this drug often lose their righting ability and their sense of balance as a function of dose. Depending upon the dosage, they can lose the ability to position themselves and are susceptible to injury as well as obstruction of the airway due to abnormal postures. While this drug has a number of legitimate clinical usages and can be helpful in minimizing aggressive behavior as well as facilitating the induction of anesthesia with other agents, its use without frequent or continual observation of the animal can lead to situations where the animal’s life can be threatened.

Other neuropharmacologic agents such as amitriptyline (an antidepressant) and chlordiazepoxide (an anti-anxiety agent) singly or in combination have also been used to alter behavior in dogs and other animals. Like other drugs, they have some side effects that can be problematic when used in higher dosages including cardiac dysrhythmia, hypotension, CNS depression, and rarely convulsions. These agents, as well as tricyclic antidepressants such as clomipramine (aka Anafranil) which has a veterinary counterpart—Clomicalm, have been approved by the FDA for treating separation anxiety.

These drugs that are used to treat inappropriate behavior in pets must be administered for a period of weeks before changes will likely be noted in pet behavior. Animals that have been placed on these drugs to address behavioral problems at home may continue to have the benefit of the medication even though it has not been given during transit.

It is not established, and probably is unlikely, that tricyclic antidepressants or other available psychotherapeutic agents will reliably alleviate the risk of panic attacks and destructive behavior while in transit. While heavy sedation with all of its associated risks might be able to accomplish this, deciding upon the appropriate dosage to maintain the desired effect over a long and perhaps variable transit time in a varying transit environment and with little chance of re-dosing or adequate observation would either put the animal at risk or may not adequately address the potential for undesirable behavior.

IATA therefore continues to endorse recommendations not to sedate or tranquilize pets or other animals in transit specifically for the purposes of potentially preventing panic attacks or destructive behavior during that period of carriage. If sedation or tranquilization is to be done specifically for the journey for valid medical reasons, it needs to be done under the direction of a veterinarian and the administration of drugs - including time and dosage level—be noted on the health certificate. If such medications are to be used, this should be done only in those shipments accompanied by trained individuals appropriately certified/licensed to administer these drugs and when the ability to take emergency actions in the event of adverse events, exists or is possible.