TRAV­EL­LING PETS

Is it safe to check-in your an­i­mal friend?

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS -

If it’s your car, you’re free to take your pet with you on a road trip of your own ac­cord, with­out much ado, en­sur­ing its com­fort at all times. How­ever, when choos­ing al­ter­na­tive modes of trans­port, one must un­der­stand that even though some air­lines and trains al­low pets on-board, they weren’t built with them in mind.

Ear­lier this year in April, the in­ter­net was out­raged at the demise of Si­mon, the 90cm (three­foot) giant bunny rab­bit. Be­fore board­ing the flight, Si­mon had un­der­gone a thor­ough check-up and re­ceived a healthy chit from his vet. Hence, the “mys­te­ri­ous” death of this an­i­mal came as a shock to many. To date the cause of Si­mon’s death re­mains un­known.

A cou­ple of months prior to this in­ci­dent, United Air­lines was un­der the scan­ner for ac­ci­den­tally killing Janet Sin­clair’s six-year old Ben­gal cat and five-year-old grey­hound due to neg­li­gence. Sin­clair was as­sured that her pets would be taken care of at all times dur­ing the jour­ney from Cal­i­for­nia to Mas­sachusetts, in­clud­ing the lay­over at Hous­ton.

How­ever, on ar­riv­ing at her fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, she was mor­ti­fied to see both an­i­mals’ cages cov­ered in blood, fae­ces and vomit. The cat didn’t sur­vive the jour­ney, and the dog was crit­i­cal. Sin­clair says she had de­clined com­pen­sa­tion of­fered by United. Later, she set up a Face­book page — United Air­lines Al­most Killed My Grey­hound. To this day pet par­ents post their tragic sto­ries there.

ARE AIR­LINES SAFE FOR AN­I­MALS?

United States Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DoT) re­ported that from the data it col­lected from Amer­i­can car­ri­ers, there have been “26 an­i­mal deaths, in­juries to 22 other an­i­mals, and no lost an­i­mals, for a total of 48 in­ci­dents” in 2016. It fur­ther goes on to state that last year, “5,23,743 an­i­mals were trans­ported, for a rate of 0.92 in­ci­dents per 10,000 an­i­mals trans­ported”. Th­ese are for the USA alone. Sim­i­lar statis­tics for In­dian air­lines aren’t avail­able.

Air travel is stress­ful for an­i­mals, and in some cases, it can be dan­ger­ous too. Though we may be as­sured of tem­per­a­tures in the cargo hold be­ing reg­u­lated to suit the an­i­mal, there is no way of check­ing on this. This adds to their dis­com­fort. An­i­mals are con­fused al­most all the time dur­ing air travel, es­pe­cially since they have no clue where their par­ent is or when they will be united. More­over, be­ing in a crate doesn’t help the sit­u­a­tion ei­ther.

“Crate train­ing is not done in In­dia,” says Dr Sri­lak­shmi Amirtheswaran, a dog be­haviourist and trainer. “Even if you do crate train your pet, the ex­pe­ri­ence in the house is very dif­fer­ent from that in the ac­tual sit­u­a­tion. An­i­mals aren’t pre­pared for the noise and crowd at air­ports, and air pres­sure is not some­thing they’re ac­cus­tomed to.” She adds, air pres­sure can be a tad bit much for an­i­mals to han­dle, caus­ing res­pi­ra­tory and car­diac prob­lems to name a few.

As for anti-anx­i­ety pills, Amirtheswaran strongly ad­vises against them for the sim­ple rea­son that if the an­i­mal has any phys­i­cal ail­ment, air­line per­son­nel would not be able to iden­tify it as the an­i­mal would be in a drowsy state. She goes on to ad­vise that though it may be won­der­ful to have your pet ac­com­pa­ny­ing you on trips, it isn’t worth putting the an­i­mal through the stress it has to en­dure dur­ing air travel. When it comes to re­lo­cat­ing, that’s a risk you must take if rail or road travel isn’t an op­tion.

HOW TO FLY PETS?

Amongst In­dian air­lines, AirAsia In­dia, GoAir, IndiGo and Vis­tara don’t al­low pets on-board. A spokesper­son for IndiGo jus­ti­fies this rule say­ing that be­cause of the fluc­tu­at­ing pres­sure in the cargo hold, it wouldn’t be fair for them to trans­port pets. The air­line also doesn’t think the an­i­mals can en­dure air pres­sure in its pas­sen­ger cabin.

AirAsia In­dia and GoAir, how­ever, al­low ser­vice dogs ac­com­pa­ny­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in their pas­sen­ger cabin. They must pay a full adult fare as they will be oc­cu­py­ing a seat in the air­craft.

As for Air In­dia, Jet Air­ways and SpiceJet, they have pro­vi­sions to fly your pet in the cabin hold, un­less: • they’re be­low eight weeks old • preg­nant • have un­weaned off­spring Pets, ex­cept guide/ser­vice dogs who ac­com­pany the pa­tient in the pas­sen­ger cabin, are checked in as cargo. Their weight, along with the crate in which they are trans­ported, is cal­cu­lated within the checkin bag­gage al­lowance.

In­dian air­lines manda­to­rily fol­low IATA Live An­i­mal Reg­u­la­tions, which in­sists that the crate/ cage must be big enough for the an­i­mal to sit, stand and turn around in com­fort­ably. Ven­ti­la­tion must be pro­vided on all four sides of the crate.

At­tach the feed­ing and water bowls to the crate’s door and in­clude a pipe with it so au­thor­i­ties can feed your pet with­out hav­ing to open the door. Also, tie an ex­tra feed to the crate with pet-sit­ting in­struc­tions, in case of de­lays. Make sure the floor pad/mat in the crate is ab­sorbent.

Air­lines also need a health cer­tifi­cate and a “fit to fly” cer­tifi­cate from your vet; in case of birds and rab­bits, a let­ter from the wildlife depart­ment at­test­ing that it isn’t an en­dan­gered species, is im­por­tant. Most air­lines have a list of banned an­i­mals and breeds on their web­site — th­ese aren’t per­mit­ted on their air­craft. It is best to check with them be­fore plan­ning your trip.

As for in­ter­na­tional quar­an­tine pro­ce­dures for ac­com­pa­ny­ing an­i­mals, air­lines ex­pect you to do your re­search on reg­u­la­tions at the depar­ture air­port, trans­fer point (if any), and ar­rival air­port. For ex­am­ple, In­dia doesn’t ac­cept pets on tourist visas. Only if the pet is re­lo­cat­ing here, can it en­ter the coun­try.

In In­dia, only dogs and cats are clas­si­fied as pets. All other an­i­mals such as birds, in­ver­te­brates, rep­tiles, am­phib­ians, and mam­mals such as ro­dents and rab­bits are con­sid­ered as cargo when be­ing im­ported. In such case, own­ers need to ver­ify that the an­i­mal be­ing trans­ported is not pro­tected un­der Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Other coun­tries have sim­i­lar laws and it is best to check the rules be­fore plan­ning your trip.

Even though you may have all the in­for­ma­tion on the air­lines’ web­sites, al­ways get in touch with the cus­tomer care per­son­nel be­fore book­ing your ticket to re-con­firm: • space avail­abil­ity in the cargo hold • air­line’s breed re­stric­tions • crate spec­i­fi­ca­tions • costs in­volved • ad­dress for pet check-in • rules and reg­u­la­tions for fly­ing pets Once your tick­ets have been booked, con­tact the air­line again to up­grade your ticket to one that con­firms your pet’s place in the cargo hold. Just so you aren’t rushed, re­serve at least 90 min­utes be­fore your check-in time to com­plete your pet’s check-in for­mal­i­ties, and com­fort it be­fore the jour­ney.

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