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On the Spot: The ins and outs of prepping pooch for flight

Many commercial airlines accept pets but there can be several restrictions. Before checking Fido in, make sure your pet's ready to take flight.

July 29, 2012|By Catharine Hamm

Question: I read the July 18 On the Spot about where to leave Fido when one travels, but what if I want to take him with me? My Fido is 40 pounds, too big to fly in cabin. The pet planes don't leave from people airports, so how do I coordinate both flights? And how do I check safety records?

Marcy Kelly

Los Angeles

Answer: The safety-record question is easier to answer: You can find information on commercial carriers at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/reports/atcr12.htm. The report from 2011 shows that 35 animals died, nine were injured and two were lost, of the hundreds of animals transported. Delta appears to have the biggest problem; 19 animals died on its flights.

You can arrange to have your animal shipped by air (Google "pet shipping"), but that doesn't resolve the differences in arrival and departure times. Neither would flying Fido on the all-animal PetAirways, which debuted two years ago but was reportedly having financial problems. (Company representatives did not respond to requests for information.)

Putting you and your dog on the same flight is one way to ensure that you aren't departing and arriving at different times. Animals fly "under cabin," weather and other factors willing.

Commercial airlines often will not accept pets as checked baggage or cargo if temperatures are 85 degrees or hotter or 20 degrees or colder on the route. For summer travel, and especially for our Southwestern cities, air travel with Fido may be a non-starter.

Each airline has a list of requirements for pet carriers, so go to the website and read the details. American's website says that the kennel must be 40 inches long by 27 inches wide by 30 inches high, except if the plane is a 737 or an MD-80. For that last aircraft "kennels … must be able to fit through the cargo door while remaining in an upright position." Good luck trying to figure out how big it is because the website doesn't say. It also doesn't say what the dimensions are for a 737. The kennel can't have a top door, it can't be wicker, it can't be cardboard and it can't be a host of other things, American says.

If you have the right carrier, you might have the wrong pet. Some airlines will not fly snub-nosed animals, and for dog owners, that means bulldogs, pugs, boxers, Lhasa apsos, Shih Tzus and Pekingese, among others. Cat breeds often include Persians and Himalayans.

There are weight restrictions too. Some airlines won't ship your pooch and carrier if, together, they weigh more than 100 pounds.

Before you begin to try to jump all the hurdles, consider whether your pet should be traveling.

"If you have an elderly dog or your dog tends to be more anxious or has medical issues, it's probably not a good idea to fly with your pet," said Kim Salerno, president and founder of TripsWithPets, which has been around since 2003. "People know their animals the best, and they need to make the well-being of the pet their first priority."

So the question is this: Does Fido care about seeing the world's largest ball of twine or buildings shaped like coffee pots? If you say yes, well, my, you have an unusual animal. But if the answer is in the negative, perhaps Fido needs to go to stay-care while you're traveling. Miss him? Sure. But you'll miss him more if something goes amiss.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com. We regret we cannot answer every inquiry.

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