Making Your Move – Travel for Pet-Owners

Moving with your pet? Here are some useful hints and information to help you take care of your furry friend.

As your moving plans get underway, ask yourself these questions, courtesy of the pet experts at Purina:

  • Is my pet in good health?
  • Will it be a good traveler?
  • Is it welcome at our relocation destination?

If you’ve answered “yes,” accustom your pet to riding in your car. Begin with short rides each day and gradually increase the length of each ride. If your pet is unable to adjust to short rides, consider plane travel. And of course, if you’re traveling long distances required by plane, read on.

What preparations should I make before traveling?

  • Carry health and rabies certificates with you. Airlines and State health officials generally require health certificates for all animals transported by air. They are required if you cross international borders. In most cases, health certificates must be issued by a licensed veterinarian examining the animal within 10 days of transport.
  • Ask your veterinarian to provide any required vaccinations or treatments. Does your pet have appropriate heartworm protection if the mosquito season begins earlier or ends later in the area you will be traveling to? Administer tranquilizers only if specifically prescribed by your veterinarian and only in the prescribed dosage.
  • Pack your pet’s water and food bowls, grooming equipment and any heartworm or other medicine it may require. If you are not certain your pet’s diet will be available at your destination, take a supply with you to avoid digestive upsets.
    And Remember: Don’t leave all your pet’s food in the moving truck – pack it with you!

Are there entry requirements per state?
Interstate health certificates must be obtained for dogs and horses prior to entering most states. Nearly all states require a rabies vaccine for dogs, and many require it for cats. Hawaii requires that cats and dogs be quarantined for 120 days.

If your move is across state lines, call or write to the State Veterinarian, State Department of Animal Husbandry, or other appropriate authority.

Do professional movers take pets?
No, federal regulations prohibit moving companies from shipping animals in moving vans. If your pets and plants can’t travel with you, ask your professional mover to help you safely transport them to your new home. Pets and plants travel best in your own car.

How can I find pet-friendly hotels for the road?
You’ll find a very handy resource in www.petswelcome.com, where you can search by city for hotels, B & Bs–even amusement parks–that are pet-friendly. Visit them here and plan your route so that reservations are made in advance for you…and your pet! Just click on their Listings section to start your search for accommodations.

What if my pet gets lost on the move?
If your pet should turn up missing during transport, immediately speak to airline personnel. Many airlines have computer tracking systems that can trace a pet transferred to an incorrect flight. If there is no report of your animal, proceed with these steps:

  • Contact animal control agencies and humane societies in the local and surrounding areas. Check with them daily.
  • Contact the APHIS-Animal Care regional office closest to where your pet was lost. Eastern Region: (301) 734-4981; Central Region: (817) 885-6910; Western Region: (916) 857-6205. For further information, call 1-800-545-USDA.
  • Provide descriptions and photographs to the airline, local animal control agencies, and humane societies. Help can also be sought from radio stations. Leave telephone numbers and addresses with all these locations should you have to return home.
  • You can also contact the Missing Pet Network at www.missingpet.net Follow the advice on “How to post a listing.” The MPN is a group of volunteers sponsored by the USDA Animal Care Office.

The importance of ID
Securing ID is one of the most important preparations you can make. Be sure to have identification tags secured! Attach taps to your pet’s collar or leg band (for birds). ID tags should include your pet’s name, your name and full address/phone, and full destination address and telephone. Most states also require dogs and cats to have a rabies tag on their collars.

Take color pictures of your pet and a written description of its colorings and distinguishing marks. Record your pet’s body size and weight. If your pet is lost, these identification aids could make the difference in locating it.

What are restrictions on air travel with dogs and cats?
No airline will guarantee acceptance of an animal it has not seen. Important considerations for acceptance of animals include the health and disposition of the animal, proper health certificates, and kennel markings and sizing. Airlines also require that, if wheels are installed as part of a kennel, they be removed or rendered inoperable prior to transport. This action prevents kennels from rolling, protecting both the animals and airline employees. USDA assigns airlines the final responsibility for determining the safety and compliance of the kennels they accept.

Airlines generally transport animals in the cargo compartment of a plane. In doing so, the airlines advise the flight crew that animals are onboard the aircraft. Some airlines allow passengers to carry their pets in the cabin of a plane if the animals are capable of fitting under the passengers’ seat. Carryon pets are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act.

Certain animals are accepted as baggage at passenger check-in locations, and others are accepted as cargo at the airlines’ cargo facilities. For the specific requirements pertaining to your animal, make advance arrangements with the airline you are using.
Airlines must ensure that they have facilities to handle animals at the airports of transfer and final destination. Airlines must comply with USDA-APHIS guidelines on allowable temperature limits for animal-holding areas.

Finally, airlines are not required to carry live animals, and they reserve the right to refuse to carry an animal for any reason.

How can I ensure a safe airline trip for my animal?
Here are some good air travel tips courtesy of the pet experts at Purina:

  • Try to avoid peak travel periods when delays and stopovers are longer. Plan a trip with as few stops and transfers as possible. Avoid traveling in extreme hot or cold weather to avoid dangerous loading and unloading periods for your pet.
  • When you make your reservation, tell the airline directly that you will have an animal with you. Be sure to reconfirm with the airline 24 to 48 hours before departure that you will bring your pet. Advance arrangements are not a guarantee that your animal will travel on a specific flight.
  • Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. If your animal is traveling as a carry-on pet or by the special expedited delivery service, check-in will typically be at the passenger terminal.
  • If you are sending your pet through the cargo system, you’ll need to go to the cargo terminal, usually located in a separate part of the airport. Note that by regulation an animal may be presented for transport no more than four hours before flight time.
  • Some airlines allow cats and small dogs to travel (generally for an additional charge) with their owner if the carrier fits under the passenger seat. Otherwise, rent or purchase a carrier or crate that meets airline regulations and affix a LIVE ANIMAL sticker. Mark it with your name and address and the name of a person who can be contacted about your pet at your destination if necessary.
  • Put a cushion or blanket on the crate floor. Attach a water cup to the crate door. The cup should be deep, but not too full of water to avoid spilling.
  • On the day of the flight, take your dog for a long walk before leaving for the airport.
  • At the end of the trip, pick up your pet promptly.
    Certain countries and island destinations require a quarantine period for animals at the owner’s expense. Ask your travel agent or the consul of the country you plan to visit about quarantines.


What are the specific age and kennel requirements?

Age: Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and must have been weaned before traveling by air.
Kennels: Kennels must meet minimum standards for size, strength, sanitation, and ventilation.
Size and Strength: Kennels must be enclosed and allow room for the animal to stand, sit, and lie in a natural position. They must be easy to open, strong enough to withstand the normal rigors of transportation, and free of objects that could injure the animal.
Sanitation: Kennels must have a solid, leakproof floor that is covered with litter or absorbent lining. Wire or other ventilated subfloors are generally allowed; pegboard flooring is prohibited. These requirements provide the maximum cleanliness for the animal in travel.
Ventilation: Kennels must be well ventilated with openings that make up at least 14 percent of the total wall space. At least one-third of the openings must be located in the top half of the kennel. Kennels also must have rims to prevent ventilation openings from being blocked by other cargo. These rims–usually placed on the sides of the kennel–must provide at least three-quarters of an inch clearance.
Grips and Markings: Kennels must have grips or handles for lifting to prevent cargo personnel from having to place their fingers inside the kennel and risk being bitten. Kennels also must be marked “live animals” or “wild animals” on the top and one side with directional arrows indicating proper position of the kennel. Lettering must be at least 1 inch high.
Animals per Kennel: Each species must have its own kennel with the exception of compatible cats and dogs of similar size. Maximum numbers include 2 puppies or kittens under 6 months old and 20 pounds each and of similar size, 15 guinea pigs or rabbits, and 50 hamsters. Airlines may have more restrictive requirements, such as allowing only one adult animal per kennel. Be sure to check with the airline you are using.

Tips on feeding and watering for air travel
Instructions for feeding and watering your pet over a 24-hour period must be attached to the kennel. This 24-hour schedule will assist the airline in providing care for your animal in case it is diverted from its original destination.

Food and water dishes must be securely attached and be accessible to caretakers without opening the kennel. Food and water must be provided to puppies and kittens every 12 hours if they are eight to 16 weeks old. Mature animals must be fed every 24 hours and given water every 12 hours.

On traveling by car
Already packed and ready to move? Here’s how you can keep your pet comfortable and safe on the road. Our travel tips come courtesy of the pet researchers at Purina.

  • Do not feed your pet for at least three hours before leaving on a trip. Take your dog for a walk just before you start the drive. You will still have to stop along the way, but your dog will be more comfortable as the trip gets underway.
  • During stops, provide fresh drinking water for your dog. You may also reward it with a dog snack for being a good traveler.
  • If the drive is eight hours or longer, give your cat the opportunity to use a litter pan three or four times, and offer it fresh drinking water.
  • Feed your pet shortly after you arrive at your destination or when you have stopped for the day.
    Pet Travel Kit: food, water, and dishes; can opener (if needed); leash; a few treats; favorite toy; and some type of bedding. Don’t forget scooper and plastic bags for cleanup!

What about small pets and animals?
Birds and small pets, such as gerbils and hamsters, can generally travel in their cages. Birds are very susceptible to drafts and sudden changes in temperature, as well as being easily frightened. To keep your bird calm, its cage should be covered while on the road.

Remove the water container from the cage to avoid spills. Place the cage in the car out of drafts but with plenty of ventilation, and be sure it will not tip over. Give the pet fresh water at every stop as small pets become dehydrated very quickly, particularly during hot weather. Feed at normal intervals.

Are there resources for disaster planning for my pet?
The following is a list of links on disaster planning for your pet, provided by Missing Pet Network. Visit the page at: www.missingpet.net/mpn/info/disaster.html