Is it Safe to Fly with Your Dog or Cat?
While dog training in Miami and South Florida one of the questions we get asked often is “How should I get my dog, cat, bird or pet to another part of the country?” This seems like a straight forward question, one that should be easy enough to answer, but actually requires and in-depth analysis weighing your options.
The world runs on trust, from businesses, to relationships, to governments, to our fiat currency we call money, and this world is short on trust. Given the diminishing trust levels everywhere (rightly so) how can you trust a business or person in this day and age? Trust in my book is earned through actions, not through empty, meaningless words, nor cute little pictures of dogs and cats on an airlines web site, nor a deceptive dog trainer’s website obfuscating their continuing education classes and claims they are certified although they clearly are not from any independent certification councils such as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Trust is further eroded through dog trainers who claim they “whisper” to dogs or practice positive reinforcement while taking out a choke chain to force your dog or choke them into submission to do their bidding. Trust and integrity come from within and are shown to others through actions. These actions demonstrate how one treats other human and sentient nonhuman animals. Trust and integrity mean doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
Given the recent unnecessary deaths with United airlines1-2 (and throughout the airline industry at large), United’s “Pet Safe” program3 (along with other airlines pet travel rules and programs) is a scam, farce, marketing ploy, a tragedy of justice and needs to be fixed!
How to Travel With My Dog?
Given that most airline employees, government TSA workers, baggage handlers and everyone along the factory line interact with human passengers, with contempt, lack of care, aloof attitudes, lack of amenities, attention, and basic humanity, I would never let my dog or cat fly under the airplane. If I had a disability, my pet would only fly in the seat next to me, or if my dog was an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), accompanied by my note from my mental health doctor that he/she is required for my health and is necessary for my travel. Dogs and cats are not inanimate pieces of luggage! As my regular blog readers know, I am not a fan of the rampant abuse of the service dog title just for conveniences. That being said, you have choices if you want to travel and are a pet parent.
Don’t fly- there are many alternatives. You can drive, take a train, bus or have your pet stay home with a qualified pet sitter or dog boarding facility (be sure to do your homework well!)
If you have a disability, get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) designation letter from your mental health professional that stipulates your need for your dog on the airplane to support you emotionally. In short, this means your dog may fly in the cabin with you. Make sure your pet is trained to at the very least a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) level so you do not have any problems with anyone regarding your dog’s behavior. It is also a great idea to achieve this minimum standard of training for the safety and comfort of you and your pet for the duration of your dog’s life.
Placing your dog in the care of airline and government personal who have no background in animal behavior is very dangerous. This requires trusting the airlines (a faceless, apathetic organization) and the numerous government officials and airline employees to know your dog’s health issues, likes, dislikes, signs of stress or discomfort and to understand dog ethology. NOT LIKELY!
Airline Service, What Service?
Unless you are one of the very few lucky ones to fly private, or enjoy business or first class services, the “service” is horrific. For the rest of humanity, there is the cattle class. Humans are shuffled around like cattle in herds, jammed into uncomfortable seats fit for children and treated as if we are doing the airlines a favor and as though they paid us and we are there to serve them not the other way around. Please, take our money, treat us like garbage and kill our pet’s while you are at it. Are you kidding me?! What has the world come to? The worst service I have ever received (besides from the DMV, another government agency) is from the airline industry. Bad experiences are not specific to an airline or location (they are all experiences we would otherwise chose not to have) but the entire process from the horribly inefficient, crashing, inaccurate websites to the timeless waits for incompetent agents to answer the phones (if they do) and the entire process at the airport, from parking your vehicle, to the waiting/holding areas, the long lines, the food (or lack thereof) on the airplane, to the beyond incompetent thieves at the TSA, the check in terminal, the flight stewardess….etc There is not one stage of the process that is even remotely enjoyable, humane or dignified. Do you think for one minute that it would be a better experience for your pet? If you do, call me because I have a bridge for sale. I cannot remember the last time a passenger died from a lack of water or from a heat stroke on an airplane, can you? Even most veterinarians and “pet professionals” do not know the nuances of dog ethology, cognitive ethology, and the health needs of certain breeds, so why do you think “Joe” throwing luggage in the back of an airplane has any remote clue what a brachycephalic dog is or looks like, or what the dog is trying to tell them with their body language or behavior? Without this knowledge, how could a dog possibly receive humane, ethical, healthy treatment by a qualified person?
Airline corporate offices add insult to injury by merely offering to pay for the price of the traveling pet’s ticket in the event of their negligence and killing your dog. This is an atrocity and embarrassment to the entire airline industry and an inhumane, disgraceful show of care or concern for customers and life. I saw Michael and Bam Bam on a regular basis, he was surly a loved dog and will be missed dearly. Our sympathies go out to Maggie Rizer & Bea, Michael Jarboe & Bam Bam, and all of the countless families and individuals who have needlessly lost a member of their family due to negligence, disregard and lack of care.
An animal flying in the hands of an airline or government employee is too often a death sentence. Even if your pet does not perish, I have had dogs that get so psychologically damaged or mistreated that they come back stressed, shaken, scarred, scared and distraught from the experience that their parents have learned never to fly with their pets again. It is a good thing that animals can’t talk or airlines would have been ousted long ago.
Maybe none of this will change until the ludicrous notion that pets are considered property and “valued” at the price at which they were purchased is abolished. Then maybe our government and businesses would be forced treat them differently. I’m not sure what the answer is, but one thing I am sure about is that no pet of mine will ever be flying under any airplane, unless I’m the pilot and it is my plane. What do you think about the industry and the safety of our pets?