Your dog or cat must fly in an IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved crate/kennel. Check with your airline about how to measure your dog for this. Space for your animal should be booked a minimum of 48 hours in advance with the airline.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces these regulations for the transportation of live animals.
Not all airlines accept pets for travel so be sure to check this with the airline before booking your flight. There are some airlines that allow you to travel with a small pet in the cabin of the plane, as long as it fits into a carry-on kennel and can be placed under a passenger seat. Each airline will have their own policy in place with regard to transporting your pet.
Be sure to contact your airline again 48 hours prior to departure to reconfirm your pet’s transportation plans. This is important since airlines will transport only a limited number of pets on each airplane.
Please note that advance arrangements do not guarantee that your pet will travel on a specific flight. Airlines reserve the right to refuse to transport a pet for reasons such as illness, poor kenneling or extreme temperatures at origin, transfer or destination airports.
Questions to Ask the Airline
- I prefer to have my pet travel in the hold instead of in the baggage area. Do you have space available for the flight I need?
- If there isn’t any room in the hold, what is the temperature in the cargo/baggage area?
- Will you provide appropriate stickers and labels for the pet carrier?What if the flight is rerouted?
- What happens to my pet?
- Where do I go to check in my pet?
- How far in advance does my pet need to be at the airport?
- What is the cost to fly my pet?
- Which papers should accompany my pet?
- Which papers do I bring to pick up my pet?
- Will my pet check through customs here or upon arrival?
- Do you have any weight restrictions?
When to travel
It is better for your pet if you can book a direct flight and if possible, avoid travelling in excessively hot or cold periods. If travelling in the summer, a morning or evening flight would be more comfortable for your pet.
Ensure that you pet is fit to travel and take your pet for a check-up with your local veterinarian. Some breeds of dogs and cats do not fly well in the hot season e.g, pugs, schitzus, pekinese, boston terriers, boxers, bulldogs and persian cats etc as these animals have difficulty in maintaining a normal body temperature in hot weather and they often have problems breathing under normal conditions.
You will need a health certificate/passport, provided by your veterinarian, in order to comply with the rules of most airlines (see section on passports/insurance). Please make sure that you have your pets passport and any relevant certificates needed in plenty of time before travelling.
- Having your pet sedated for travel is not advisable due to the effects it can have on them at high altitudes. Many veterinarians advise against this, unless there is a particular reason why your pet should have some form of sedation (for example, maybe your pet is of a nervous disposition). In any case, you should discussed this with your veterinarian.
- An airline cannot guarantee that it will accept a pet that it has not seen. Since an airline cannot transport a pet that is violent or dangerous, important considerations for acceptance of pets include the pet’s health and disposition. A health certificate will help to address any concerns. An airline must also determine that all paperwork is in order and that the kennel/crate meets all requirements.
There are regulations on the size of kennel to be used for your pet (APHIS and IATA regulations). It is only common sense that the kennel or crate must be well ventilated, sturdy and large enough to allow your pet to stand up, turn around in and lie down. The lock mechanism on the kennel must be secure enough as well as being able to open it by hand. The pet should not be able to distort, push through or gnaw the wire mesh (which should be firmly secured and not stapled). It is also required that the kennel/crate have projecting rims or spacers to ensure that the ventilation slats cannot be blocked by adjoining kennels or cargo. Most pet stores (as well as some airlines) supply kennels/crates that comply with these regulations.
When your pet travels, the kennel/crate should;
- Clearly display your name and address
- Use arrows or other marking to indicate the top of the kennel
- Include food and water dishes (both empty), which are secured inside the kennel and accessible from outside
- Show a food and water schedule and, if any food is necessary, include an ample supply in a bag attached to the outside of the kennel
- Contain no more than one adult dog or one cat per kennel (check with airlines if small dog/kittens).
- Your pet must be able to stand comfortably in the kennel and be able to turn around while standing in the kennel
- Contain absorbent material or bedding, such as newspaper
- Display labels on top and on at least one side with the words LIVE ANIMALS printed in 1-inch-high letters
Food and Water
In order to prepare you pet for travelling, reduce the quantity of food the day before, but give your pet enough water; take your dog for a walk before leaving for the airport and again before check-in. Give your dog/cat a light meal before putting the animal in the carrier as this will help to calm it (this is a legal requirement in America). Do not overfeed, as a full stomach is not good for your pet whilst travelling. At the check-in desk, you may be asked to sign a certificate stating the time you last offered food and water to your pet. It is advisable to offer your pet food and water within 4 hours of checking-in. Do not leave the food or water dish in the kennel/crate as it could spill and make travel unpleasant for your pet. The airline should advise you on what to do.
Ensure that you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare so that there will be no rush. If your pet is traveling as unaccompanied baggage or by special expedited delivery service, check-in will usually be at the passenger terminal.
If your pet will be traveling through the cargo system, you may need to go to the air freight terminal, which typically is located in a separate part of the airport. Be sure to check with your airline for the acceptance cutoff time for your flight, and the location from which you can retrieve your pet at the destination airport. Note: You may not give your pet to the airline more than four hours before flight time (six hours by special arrangement).
It is mandatory for airlines to make sure that the facilities at the airports of transfer or final destination are able to handle pets. There are also guidelines on temperature limits for the animal holding areas that the airlines must also comply with.
All pets and their kennel/crates require physical screening through Airport Security.
Carry a leash or cat harness with you on a trip so that you may walk your pet before check-in and after arrival. This enables you to also secure your pet during security screening. (Do not keep the leash with your pet, either inside or attached to the outside of the kennel.)
Do not take your pet out of its kennel inside the airport unless Airport Personnel ask you to do so. You should let your pet out of the kennel only after you leave the terminal building. Some airports offer special pet relief areas. Check with your airline or the airport information desk when you arrive at the terminal.
You should clearly mark the kennel with your pet’s name. In addition to showing your name and address, you must mark the kennel with the telephone number of a person at the destination who can be contacted about your pet. This is especially important if you are sending your pet unaccompanied through the cargo system, because you will not be at the airport to claim your pet upon arrival. It may be helpful to contact a pet travel service to handle an unaccompanied pet, since these services manage pick-up and delivery and can advise on quarantine requirements for international travel.
Take a photo of your pet and get three copies printed. Attach one to the carrier, keep one with you when you travel and make sure if you’re not the one to pick up your pet that the person meeting your pet has a copy. This is just in case the airline loses your pet.
Buy a collar and attach identification tags; one with your old contact information and one with your new information. Make sure the collars are on securely; not too tight, but not too loose that they could get caught.
* If you are unsure of quarantine laws or have any further questions on, vaccinations, breed restrictions etc, you can always contact the Italian Consulate who should be able to answer any questions that you may have.