Traveling with Pets

2019 Adventure May 2019

By Dana Parkinson on the May 2019 Edition

I recently had the pleasure of being part of a great group of volunteers that banded together to give a rescue animal a new home. My part in the chain of events was escorting Brisa on the flight so she could be with her new human and pet family in Canada.

I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of volunteers and donors in supporting the many local charities in Manzanillo. We can all help the animal associations, in this case, by adopting or helping to find homes for the rescued pets and in giving them a “ride” to their destinations. If you have the opportunity to escort a pet, contact any of the local animal rescue organizations or just spread the word on social media and you’ll likely find a match quickly.

Today’s story is one about travel and a few practical tips for making your journey smoother. Brisa and I traveled on WestJet. I have done a similar trip with pets on Alaska. For those going to Canada, it’s helpful to bypass the United States so as to only have to go through customs, immigration and inspection once on the trip.

The first step is to contact the airline and book travel for the pet. Only small (very small) pets can travel in the cabin. Others go as cargo. Only a certain number of in-cabin pets are allowed per flight so it’s important to book ahead. Cost is around $120 CAD depending on the airline.

At certain times of year or with certain aircraft, in cabin or car-go options may not be available. The airline will also specify what type of carrier is needed (soft-sided, mesh sides for breathability and room for the pet to stand up and turn around, for in-cabin carriers). Note that the under seat space is less for aisle and middle seats than for window seats.

Arrive early at the airport as it will take extra time to get checked in. The airline may ask you to take the pet out of the carrier and may inspect the carrier.

What I didn’t expect, and which caused a pet (just before us) to panic and scramble out of security (all ended well) was that, in security, in Manzanillo, they asked me to remove Brisa’s collar (I never had been asked to remove the collar before) and carry her through. It’s easy to lose a panicky, squirmy pet if they don’t have a collar (or preferably a harness) and a leash on. I almost lost my cat in the Houston airport that way. Be prepared and take it slowly.

Upon arrival in the US and/or Canada, there may be a pet inspection fee, papers and pet will be inspected and the pet will likely have to come out of the carrier. Ask for a private room if you don’t think you can easily control the situation.

They will want to see the letter of good health that you get from your vet in Manzanillo (should be no more than a week old), preferably in English, that outlines the pet’s age, breed, weight, health condition(s) and date of important vaccines. The Canadian government provides a trilingual template at this link.

They may want to see a record of vaccines to date and will, undoubtedly, want to see the rabies vaccine details, in particular. Allow extra time between flights as the pet will be inspected on your port of entry. That means waiting longer than you may normally allow.

Vets seem to differ in opinion about whether to sedate an animal before travel. Those opposed feel that the pet should have full use of his/her reflexes should it be necessary to react to a situation or physical challenge. Most seem to agree to not give the pet food or water the day of the flight, except perhaps early morning if travel is late afternoon. Discuss it with your vet.

Importantly, if you are traveling alone with a pet, don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are very kind people that may be looking at your struggle with the carrier, luggage and pet and would be willing to help if you ask.

In my experience with both of the aforementioned airlines, the airline and ground crews were very helpful. People onboard can also be very kind. I sent a note of thanks to the West Jet crew afterward. Overall, we had a very successful day and flights!

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