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Flying with Pets

Flying with dogs can be an emotional experience….

traveling-with-petsYou think about it for many days before the flight. It weighs heavily on your mind from the time you book the tickets. How will your four legged family members cope with the stress of being in a kennel in a lonely cargo hold away from you?

Here is our personal account of our recent experience travelling with our 9 month pup and 10 year old labradoodle, where we flew from Vancouver to Palm Springs on a connecting flight through Calgary.

When it came to making our travel plans to go to Palm Desert for a month, we at first toyed with the idea of driving with our two dogs to avoid the stress and anxiety that we believed the dogs would experience on a flight.

Due to time constraints, it became clear that flight was our only option, so we began the process of making it happen. Our conversations with friends who had previously flown with their dogs, gave us our first stage of reassurance that our dogs would be safe.

traveling-with-petsOn the phone with Westjet, our level of reassurance greatly improved. It turned out in our case, that Westjet put us in touch with a reservations agent who is a dog owner and who had experience shipping their own dogs. The conversation started with the agent asking about the size and weight of our dogs. Airlines, including Westjet allow passengers to travel with their small dogs in a soft kennel under their seat. However, with larger dogs they have to travel in a regulated kennel that is safety approved. Travellers Beware! If you arrive at the airport with a kennel that is not “regulation approved” or not the right size, your dogs won’t be able to travel.

You can however buy a regulated kennel at the airport, for triple the price. The dogs must have enough room to stand up, turn around and lie down. In our case, we were proposing to travel with our two dogs and wondered if we needed two kennels. The agent informed us that if we got an oversized kennel, large enough for the two of them, they could travel as one. For the dogs on a comfort level this would be the way to go, and we benefited by only being charged for one ticket for the dogs. $78 dollars, the cost to fly our dogs was a small price to pay for their safety. Our agent took a lot of time providing all the information and reassuring us that our dogs would arrive safely. She told us that the dogs go on last and come off first. As passengers, the flight attendant personally delivers a tag that is part of the cargo documentation telling you that your dogs are on the flight. If they are not they will hold back the flight until they are on board. Book Early- because most airlines only allow two kennels below and two under the seat. Many airlines may also restrict travel dates if you are heading into a particularly hot or cold destination.

November 1st, our travel day arrived…..

We arrived at the airport with two nervous dogs, and we were not sure what to expect. At the check in, we were informed by the agent that we could stay with the dogs until they went into the cargo area. Each kennel is given a security check before it is taken to the aircraft. Once the dogs are in the kennel the agent secures the doors with zap straps so the kennel can’t be opened until they are back with their owners. When the kennel arrives and you are there to greet it, the first order of business is to find an agent with scissors to snip the zaps so your dog can get out. In our case, because we were connecting in Calgary with a two hour lay over, we were allowed to take the dogs out of their kennel and stay with them. This was a little stressful as the dogs were quite hyper after their flight. The Calgary airport has a small place to take the dogs out to do their business. As a dog owner shipping your pets, you are their advocate, so if there is a lay over, do your best to insist that you are able to see your dogs and take them for a walk in between flights.

At US customs, their only concern is that your pets have had updated rabi shots and you have documentation with you. Without it, you cannot travel. Period.

In the end, it is usually “mom and dad” that are more stressed than the dogs. We made it to and from Palm Springs without a hitch. Thank you West Jet.

Bev and Brian Coxford

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