America's pets are on the move

Travel always involves extra planning for pet owners. Take them along or leave them behind? Either way, special arrangements are required.

Faced with the prospect of leaving their furry loved ones at home or in a kennel when going on vacation, more of the country's 63 million pet owners are bringing them along. A survey by the American Animal Hospital Association found travelers roughly split on the answer. 53 percent want to bring their furry friends; 47 percent prefer to leave them behind.

Now, the great majority of pets travel in their owner's automobiles, but an estimated half a million cats and dogs took trips with their owners on U.S. airlines last year.

Like the carry-on canine riding regally through the airport metal detector, America's pets are on the move.

Traveling with pets has long been common practice in Europe. In France and Italy, for example, you find dogs and cats taking mass transit and sitting at their owner's feet in restaurants and movie theaters.

Even Britain is relaxing century-old travel restrictions on pets. Now dogs and cats that have been certified rabies-free with a microchip ID embedded under their skin can enter the country without enduring six months in quarantine. Initially, the change applies only to animals from Western Europe, but may be expanded to the U.S. and Canada.

Recognizing how many pet owners want to take furry loved ones on vacation, major American hotel and motel chains, including Howard Johnson, Days Inns, Marriott and Ramada, have put out welcome mats for friendly felines and convivial canines. The Lowes chain provides litter boxes and leashes and even has a frequent-stay program for pets. Numerous upscale hotels and resorts are actively wooing pet owners with amenities such as puppy sitting and dog walking.

Traveling by car is certainly simpler than flying, although it does require some planning. Feed, water and exercise your animal an hour or two before leaving home. A tired pet will fall off to sleep more easily.

In general, it's probably wise to keep your pet confined in a crate, barrier or harness. To avoid sliding in the event of sharp turns or sudden stops, be certain that your luggage as well as your dog's crate are securely stored or fastened. If you're driving for more than two or three hours, plan stops so you and your pet can stretch your legs. While driving, use the air conditioning or keep windows open enough to allow circulation of fresh air, but not enough to allow your pet to jump out. Don't let your dog ride with his head hanging out of the window. Its eyes, ears and throat can become inflamed.

Traveling by air with a pet is more problematic.

First, buy or borrow a sturdy pet carrier. To meet airline specifications, the carrier must have proper ventilation and enough room for your pet to stand up, turn around and lie down. Fill the carrier's water tray with ice cubes rather than water to prevent spillage during loading.

In addition to your pet's comfort, the carrier's size will make a big difference in the cost of transportation. If you're traveling on the same flight, a carrier that is smaller than 3 feet by 2 feet by 26 inches may qualify as baggage. If the carrier's larger than that or you're not traveling on the same flight, it will have to be shipped as air freight, a much more expensive, complicated and time-consuming proposition.

Most airlines charge about $50 each way for an animal to fly in cargo. Since space is limited, always check with airlines when making reservations. Also, each airline has specific policies about animals onboard, so ask what's involved.

All but the smallest animals will have to travel in the baggage hold. During the flight that space will be heated and pressurized just like the cabin, although not cooled in summer. It's another matter when the plane is on the ground. That's why it's wise to avoid traveling on days likely to be hotter than 80 degrees or cooler than 40 degrees at either end of the trip. Also, minimize delays by traveling on direct or nonstop flights at off-peak times. Early morning or late evening flights are best in summer, while afternoon flights are best in winter.

In addition to identification on the carrier, your animal may also need a recent health certificate showing it's had all the necessary shots. Vets generally advise against tranquilizing your pet, unless it's hyperactive. Clipping a dog's nails will prevent them from hooking in the crate's door, holes or other openings.

Plan to get to the airport extra early to take care of last-minute details. When boarding the plane, let the cabin staff know you have a pet onboard. If the flight's delayed, remind them about your animal.

The pet owner's vigilance is important. Flying a pet entails risks. Each year, dozens of cats and dogs die in transit, either from delays and mishandling or the stress of travel. And last year, Congress rejected the Safe Travel for Animals Act, which would have put stricter rules on how airlines transport pets.

Remember: not all animals appreciate travel. Some cats may not like changes in their environment, nor are all dogs sufficiently social.

Kennels are the main choice for travelers who leave pets at home. Kennel conditions and care vary widely. The Web site of the American Boarding Kennel Association lists its members (719-591-1113);. In-home care is another popular option, especially for cats. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters has a referral service of its 1,500 members (800-296-PETS).

Several Web sites ( and can help travelers find pet-friendly lodgings, but since animals are still generally non grata most places wise travelers always ask about the property's policy before booking.

Heather Walters has written several ''Take Your Pet Along'' guidebooks detailing pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and attractions (ARTCO Publishing 800-255-8038); Eileen Barish's book ''Vacationing With Your Pet'' is another good resource. A bimonthly newsletter, DogGone, is dedicated to giving pet owners insights and information to avoid hassles (888-364-8728.). The American Animal Hospital Association is another good resource, with 17,000 veterinary care providers in the U.S. and abroad (303-986-2800).

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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