How do you travel with pets with Dr. Cherese Sullivan
Dr. Cherese Sullivan graduated from Cornell University in 2010 with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She previously graduated from Penn State University with her Bachelor of Science in Animal Bioscience and Tuskegee University with a master’s degree in Veterinary Science. She has been in Houston since 2011 after relocating from the Washington DC area.
Dr. Sullivan has worked in general practice, emergency, and shelter medicine. Her veterinary interests include surgery, neurology, behavior, and exotics. She is a member of the American Veterinary medical Association (AVMA).
She is “owned” by a very feisty Jack Russell Terrier named Quincy. Her hobbies include: cooking, traveling, and attending outdoor festivals.
Notes from Dr. Sullivan:
- Most airlines require a health certificate issued by a veterinarian which includes a record of vaccines.
- Domestic and International travel vary significantly.
- The main document generally is the health certificate. It certifies that an exam has been completed within 30 days for the pet’s travel (although some require it to be completed within 10 days of travel). The exam certifies 3 things:
- the pet has been microchipped if applicable
- the pet has not recently been quarantined or exposed to rabies
- the pet is free of obvious and apparent contagious disease (this is a big one because pets can have other non contagious diseases that this health certificate is not certifying ie. Kidney disease)
- Domestic mostly requires health certificate, no exposure to rabies within 6 months. Current Rabies vaccine.
- International varies but most common requirements include: USDA certified health certificate (meaning it will need to go to both a USDA certified vet (a general practitioner trained to do these exams) AND a USDA staff vet for approval – either by mail or now email)
- Rabies vaccine, Rabies titer (a blood test to check for rabies antibodies within 1 month of vaccination), other core vaccines such as distemper, parvo, FVRCP. Microchip, proof of parasite prevention.
- See https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel for specific info on state or country you are traveling to.
What kind of animals can you travel with:
- Virtually anything as long as you have the proper permits, documents, and authorizations. For come species you may need to contact a country or state’s government wildlife office. These vary by species. Some require special handling. As a student I helped to transport from lions from the Norfolk Zoo to Oregon.
Air travel vs cabin
- This varies per airline. Some airlines only allow pets to travel as cargo (with exception of service animals), some only allow cabin, while others will allow a mix.
- The difference is usually weight/size restrictions (generally under 20lbs for cabin). But also there can be breed restrictions which usually include brachycephalic breeds or snush faced dogs like bulldogs, boston terriers, pugs etc.
- Both cabin and cargo pets will need to be in an airline approved crate or holder. I really like United Airlines Petsafe program. The cargo hold that pets are in is pressurized and temperature controlled like the main cabin.
- They are also unloaded first and placed in climate controlled vans for transfers. The airline will replenish food and water as needed and also they have a 24 hour help desk. You will need to get to the airport well in advance as often the loading site is off site from the main airport checkin.
- Definitely a real thing whether is be car or plane. Acclimating a pet to their travel crate is a huge thing. So I recommend owners put the crate out and toss treats in it to make it comfortable and familiar months in advance of a trip.
- Also placing a tshirt with your family’s familiar scent or using a pheromone (dog only detected hormone) spray or collar can help. For those who still have anxiety there are medications that can be prescribed from your veterinarian to help.
- Valium and acepromazine are the most common but valium is my favorite because it addresses the anxiety part as opposed to pure tranquilization. However, you must see the guidelines for your airline first bc many airlines do not allow pets to fly with sedation or other medications in their system. This includes United. You cannot even give Benadryl.
Emotional support animals
- This has really exploded in the past few years. Honestly, there are so many physical and online certification agencies and there is no overlying agency to govern them so many non-suitable pets are becoming “certified” emotional support animals.
- This has nothing to do with veterinarians most of the time a veterinarian is not even involved in this process. I personally had a flight where a so called emotional support animal bit a passenger and the pet and owner was escorted off of the flight. It really put a bad light on those who truly need support animals and have adequately trained them.
How to cope with an animal on your flight
- Have compassion for the person who needs this animal for whatever reason. Animals have roles as both emotional and physical help. Also some of these pets are member of the family and are more scared than you are.
- If they are truly a well trained support animal they should not bother you in any way.
- If you have allergies or are bothered by a support animal speak up to a flight attendant and ask to be reseated. They really have an obligation to do this for you as a passenger provided another seat is open.