Flying with pets is on the rise. We asked industry experts for their dos and don'ts for responsible animal travel.

Cat on an airplane
Credit: Getty Images

Air travel for pets and emotional support animals has more than doubled in the past year, according to airlines. As a result, carriers are tightening their restrictions to avoid danger (and drama) for human and nonhuman fliers alike.

Delta, citing an 84-percent increase in “reported animal incidents” since 2016, recently announced a more stringent policy. United also modified its rules, and JetBlue recently announced updates as well.

Since many pet owners aren’t sure what’s allowed or advised anymore, T+L asked travel insiders and animal specialists to share their tips for worry-free travel with cuddly companions.

DON'T: Forget to pack the necessary gear.

“Prepare a kit with proof of vaccinations, food, water, bowls, any medication your pet requires, and other necessities such as a litter box, litter, and waste bags,” says Lori Bierbrier, medical director at ASPCA Community Medicine.

DO: Properly ID your pet.

“Never travel with pets unless they have had microchips implanted and are wearing external tags that include your up-to-date contact information,” Bierbrier says.

DON'T: Wait until the last minute to plan your pet’s travel.

“The consequences of rushing range from relatively minor annoyances (like unexpected costs) to serious complications such as an airline denying your pet’s boarding — or even flying it back to your place of departure,” says Brent Reiter, operations manager at Airpets America. “A pet relocation service can help avoid those problems.”

DO: Check species and breed restrictions.

Reiter notes that "most airlines tend to restrict bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, chows, and pugs, as they are brachycephalic (short-headed, or snub nosed) and thus more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity."

DON'T: Sedate your pet before traveling.

“Instead, help your pet get comfortable in the travel crate. Leave the carrier open in the house so your pet can spend time in it and eat inside,” says Derek Huntington, president of the International Pet & Animal Transportation Association. “If it’s a comforting space, your pet will want to be in it during travel.”

DO: Carry necessary paperwork.

“This encompasses an import permit from the destination country and a health certificate that meets the country’s requirements,” says Huntington. “Pro pet shippers can assist with the transport process; find one using IPATA's searchable database.

DON'T: Let your pet ride loose in a car.

For Gordie Spater, co-founder of pet travel gear company Kurgo, “this is the number one mistake pet parents are still making. A loose dog is a danger to the driver, other passengers, and of course, the animal itself.”

DO: Invest in a comfortable pet harness.

“Our job at Kurgo is to be very focused on safety in the car while traveling with a dog. This crash-tested safety harness is one of my favorites. We buckle up before we leave home — so why wouldn’t we do the same for our pet?”

DON'T: Assume that your pet will travel in the airplane cabin with you.

“With some airlines, only recognized assistance animals can travel in the cabin,” says Claire Beadle, manager at Gatwick Airport's Animal Reception Centre. “If you do need to use a cargo carrier, ensure that it meets the requirements for air travel established by the International Air Transport Association. Familiarize your pet with the travel crate and don’t forget to put water in there for the journey.”

DO: Get a clean bill of health.

“For example, check that your pet’s blood tests and vaccinations, such as for rabies, are current and have been administered within the proper time frame. If your dog is traveling, check that it has received an appropriate tapeworm treatment,” says Beadle.