Air Transport and Tranquilizers

"Nearly half of all dog deaths associated with air transport are attributed to the use of tranquilizers... a recent study reveal[s] that sedation does nothing to decrease transport stress... recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research...

"The American Veterinary Medical Association and the International Air Transport Association recommend not tranquilizing dogs for air transport" (Wilford, Christine. "Transport and Tranquilizing." AKC Gazette, August 2003, 25).

"The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you do NOT transport your pet by air unless absolutely necessary... your dog will likely have to travel as baggage, which can involve facing extreme temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling" ("Heading Home For the Holidays?" Dog Fancy, Dec. 2003, 41).

If you absolutely have to ship a dog by air, and they will not allow you to take the dog in the cabin as "excess baggage" or a second seat, here is a checklist from a letter by Steve Robinson:

  • Book in advance
  • Direct flight only
  • Know type of equipment (plane) and temperature regulations
  • Acclimatizing dog
  • Health papers
  • Selection of crate
  • Accustoming dog to crate
  • Labeling/information on crate
  • Food/instructions attached to crate
  • Unique identifying markings on crate
  • Airport arrival
  • Checking in
  • Remaining with dog until baggage handlers come for him
  • Checking in at gate, notifying agent
  • Watching for dog to be loaded
  • Notifying agent on board
  • Receiving notification that dog is on plane
  • If necessary, refusing to allow plane to leave gate without notification
  • Know exactly where dog will come in at end point (oversize baggage door)
  • Know approximate time to unload
  • Inquire if time excessive to unload
  • Tak food/medications/clean-up
  • Have phone no. and location of emergency vet if necessary
  • Thank baggage office/personnel

("More on Flying with Dogs." Whole Dog Journal, June 2003, 23).

"Pets ride in a pressurized and heated area of the plane's hold, and every year thousands of dogs travel safely that way. If your dog is crate-trained and used to long car rides in her crate, she should be able to tolerate a plane trip...

"She'll need a health check and certificate for flying.. so your vet. should examine her thoroughly a few days before your trip to make certain she's healthy enough to fly.

"When you book your tickets, get all the specific regulations and information pertaining to pet travel on that particular airline, so you'll know exactly what's required and can prepare properly...

"..don't feed her at leasat four to six hours before take-off. Walk her before boarding so she can eliminate...

"Put ice cubes instead of water in her crate's drinking bowl, so it doesn't slosh and spill when she's loaded into the plane...

"She'll be less anxious if you remain calm and upbeat during the airport experience.." (September Morn. "My New, Big Buddy." Dog Fancy, April 2004: 18-19).

For airline contact numbers and policies see

"...several humane organizations warn of hazards for dogs in the cargo holds of planes, citing incidents of overheating, crushed dog crates, death from suffocation, and dogs escaping when crates accidentally pop open on a tarmac. Don't fly pets, if possible, advises the Humane Society of the United States, Doris Day Animal League, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals...

"No one knows how many pets become injured or die on airplanes. The Department of Agriculture... doesn't tally the figure. The airline industry doesn't keep statistics either...(28).

"A 1998 USDA audit found violations of animal handling rules on 37 percent of... flights checked..." (31).

"...some airlines' refusal to ship pets during the hottest time of year (May to September)" (30).

"Don't just show up with a dog... Check and recheck your airline's requirements... Rules can change" (31).

"...asking the airline: "Will my plane's cargo hold be ventilated? Will it offer temperature control, so my dog won't be subject to fluctuating or extreme temperatures? Do you have someone designated to keep track of the animal separately from the baggage stream?"" (31).

- American Airlines (800) 433-7300;
- Continental Airlines (800) 525-0280;
- Delat (800) 221-1212;
- Jet Blue (800) 538-2583;
- Northwest (800) 225-2525;
- Southwest (800) 435-9792;
- USAirways (800) 428-4322;

Tips for Air Safety:

  • "Get your dog checked out before flying... Ask your vet. what's best for your individual dog...
  • "When you board, tell a pilot and a flight attendant your pet is in the cargo hold...
  • "Written instructions for food and water must accompany all animals shipped...
  • "Your dog must not be exposed to temperatures less than 45 degrees...
  • "Airlines generally require that your dog be examined by a vet. within 10 days before shipment to ensure the dog is in good health...
  • "Before traveling, accustom your pet to the kennel in which he will be shipped...
  • "Make sure the crate's door latches securely...
  • "Do not give your pet solid food in the six hours prior to the flight...
  • "..a walk before and after the flight are advised...
  • "Try to schedule a non-stop flight.
  • "Write your name, address, and phone number on the kennel. Make sure your pet's tag has the same information.
  • "Carry a photo of your dog in case he becomes lost"

(Eve Adamson. "Oh, Behave!" Dog Fancy, June 2004: 20-27).

Colby Glass, MLIS