Dog lovers want to take their dogs with them where ever they go. If you are traveling to the Olympics, however, it is best to leave your dog at home. Aside from the difficulties of traveling by air with your dog, the temperature difference between our area and Vancouver can be extreme. Last year, the temperatures ranged from 29 degrees F to 56 degrees F. That is quite a shock to a dog used to our relative warmth.
If you insist on taking your dog, however, there are several pieces of paperwork that need to be completed prior to your departure. This article applies to pet dogs. Assistance dogs have different rules.
First, try to book a direct flight. If there is a connecting flight, you must claim your dog and then recheck him in, so allow four hours between flights. This is hard on the dog and increases the possibility there will be problems.
Canada requires a current rabies vaccination. You must carry an original rabies certificate signed by your veterinarian. Nothing else is acceptable. This same document is necessary to re-enter the United States after you leave the Olympics. Both the Canadian border authorities and the United States border authorities will inspect this document, so keep it with you as you travel.
The airlines vary in their procedures for flying with dogs. Most carriers allow small dogs in a Sherpa ® bag that fits under the seat to fly in the cabin. However, they must remain in the bag the entire flight. Big dogs must fly in an approved hard sided crate in the hold of the aircraft. The hold is temperature controlled and pressurized during flight. However, when the plane is on the ground, the heat/air conditioner doesn’t run. Occasionally, something goes wrong in the hold and dogs die. One year the winner of Westminster Dog Show died on the flight home. For years the airlines refused to release the incidence of deaths and injuries for pets, but the government now requires them to do so. Ask for these figures before choosing an airline.
You may need a health certificate from your veterinarian in addition to the rabies certificate you need to enter Canada or the United States. This must be filled out no more than ten days before the flight. Getting two originals of the rabies certificate is wise – one for the airlines and one for customs. You will need a certificate from your veterinarian saying the dog is acclimated to the cold and can travel when the temperature is below 45 degrees F. The exact wording and other details can be found on the airline website. When you make reservations for your plane tickets, be sure and ask the airlines what you need to do to travel with your dog and make the necessary arrangements. You must often arrive two hours before the flight to fill out the necessary forms and get the dog on the plane
The dog should not be fed or given water for a couple of hours prior to the flight so he won’t have to go to the bathroom in the crate. You must provide shredded newspaper to absorb any accidents while in the crate, a quart bag of dog food for the dog, and clip on cups for food and water that do not require the crate door to be opened to fill. The little plastic ones that come with most crates are best. A soft toy can be placed inside, too. Do not put anything hard in the crate, such as metal food dishes, in case of turbulence during the flight. Finally, do not sedate your dog. It impairs his ability to regulate his body temperature or respond to changes in altitude.
When you reach your destination, you will need to speak to a baggage agent to claim your dog. There is usually a long wait as the dog must be hand carried to the claim area. You must then provide identification to claim the dog. When you return home, you must again bring the dog early to the flight, provide the paperwork (the original health certificate is still good, as is the rabies certificate), and wait at the airport to claim your dog when you get home.
Here are the rules for shipping dogs for some of the major airlines: