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Space-Age Beardies

by Cathy Goetz-Perry

Webmaster note: Some parts of this article are outdated. Please refer to CKC, AKC and individual airline web sites for current regulations regarding shipping of animals.

The world has grown smaller with the Internet and air travel. Estimates from airlines are that almost as many animals as people travel by air. Anyone involved with family located across the country, showing or breeding Beardies will one day travel by air with their dog or ship a dog by air. I recently was returning a female here for breeding to her owner. On her flight was a boxer, a samoyed, two toy poodles, three cats and two Vietnamese pygmy pigs! 

Most airlines and chapters of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have pamphlets on air travel with pets. Some of the information in this column is borrowed from Beardie Basics, Rieseberg and McKinney. Whether shipping you Beardie or having your Beardie accompany you, preparation helps ensure a safe trip. 

Whether shipping or travelling with your dog, choose a nonstop direct flight whenever possible. Make reservations for your dog when you make your own reservations. Many airlines have limitations as to the number of animals they allow on one flight as extra baggage. If shipping your dog, make reservations with the appropriate air cargo as many days in advance as possible. Be aware that if your dog travels by air, he/she will be placed in the hold of the plane as cargo. If a transfer is required, allow plenty of time and try to stay with the same airline if possible. 

Ensure you know where to go on arrival when travelling with your dog. If shipping, get directions to the air cargo/freight area. When making either type of reservation, ask to ensure the plane has a climate controlled and well ventilated hold. Most Boeing 700 (767, 747,737) and DC 10's have climate controlled holds. Beware of the new A320 Airbuses. These planes have limitations to their climate control, especially when shipping in cold weather. Also ask to determine if shipping rates are determined by the size of the crate or total weight of the crate and dog. Ask about regulations regarding temperature minimums at the point of takeoff and destination. Especially if shipping and if it's too hot or too cold, your dog may have to wait until a more moderate day. 

If shipping, we prefer to use airlines that have preferred status for animals, particularly with Delta (DASH service) and Northwest (VIP service). Check with the airline you are using about the availability of preferred status. It costs more but is well worth it. It usually means a preferred area in the hold, direct delivery from the cargo area to the plane, the dog is usually loaded last and taken off first, and direct delivery to the cargo area at the destination. Again, ask about where to deliver the dog. It may be different than the normal air cargo/ freight area for that particular airline. 

Rates for shipping dogs have escalated dramatically in the last few years. We recently shipped a full-grown male to British Columbia and the cost was $340 Canadian. Rates from the mid-west US to Toronto were $180+ US. Rates for your dog travelling with you as extra baggage vary by airline. Our experience is that the charge is $50-$120 one-way. You must ship your dog in an airline approved crate. Van-kennels, Kennel Cabs, etc. are approved. Airlines also usually sell crates. Be sure the size is comfortable for the dog but not too large. Most grown Beardies will need the equivalent of a Vari-kennel 400 or 500 (for a large male) or a large in airline crate size.

Ensure the crate is prepared. We spread a layer of plain newsprint (not newspaper) on the floor and cover it with old towels or more shredded newsprint. We also usually send a soft, sheep's wool toy with the dog. No hard toys or bones. 

The crate must be labelled whether your dog is travelling with you or being shipped. Apply a label which notes "Live Dog. Do Not Place Near Dry Ice. Do Not Open Crate Except in Emergency." If shipping, prepare a shipping label if not supplied by airline with the name, address, city, phone number and airport to which the dog is being shipped. Also include your name, address and phone number. If the airline has prepared the air bill, check it carefully to make sure all information is correct and watch the agent place the air bill on your dog's crate to make certain the correct air bill goes with your dog. Or, watch the agent put the baggage tag on your dog's crate for the same reasons. We recommend buying insurance for a dog when shipping or travelling with your dog. Unless you declare a value and insure your dog, the airline will pay only a minimum in case of loss. 

If you are shipping or travelling with your Beardie to the US, between states or overseas, your dog must have a heath certificate dated within ten days of travel and a current rabies vaccination. If you are shipping or travelling outside of Canada, you must also determine customs requirements for the country of destination. This means that in scheduling the flight, you must determine if customs inspection is available when your dog arrives at its destination. This applies to shipping or when travelling with your Beardie. If your dog arrives after customs closes, he may not be released until customs agents are available. 

Don't feed your dog 12 hours prior to travelling and don't water him more than two hours before departure. If your dog's flight is greater than 10-12 hours, you may need to send water with him. If the flight arrangements are greater than 12-24 hours, you may be required to send food. If so, ensure watering and feeding instructions are labelled on his crate. 

I usually pack some emergency supplies in my carry-on when travelling with a dog. These include leash, extra collar, paper towels, plastic bags for disposals, wash cloths, small towels, children's Gravol, Neoatropec-C for diarrhea and water. All this leaves little room for my stuff! 

Many people question is a dog should be sedated for air travel. We don't recommend it, but if your dog is high strung or anxious when travelling, you should discuss it with your vet. Dogs that get car sick may just need some children's Gravol at the appropriate weight determined dosage. If a sedative is required, Atrovet seems to be the drug of choice, but it requires a vet's prescription. For dogs that are noise sensitive, it may help to expose them to airplane noise prior to travel or shipping. 

Most freight offices and airlines require that you have your dog at the airport for check-in at least two hours before takeoff to allow adequate time for safe and correct loading. Most breeders recommend placing a collar with an ID tag and owner information on your Beardie before shipping or before placing the dog in its crate. Make sure the collar is close fitting and that tags don't hang or they may catch in the door or the crate. A rolled leather collar or retriever type collar are best. Exercise you dog before arriving at the airport for check-in. When required, place the dog in its crate. Double check the latch. You should remain with the dog as long as possible. The last dog I shipped I ended up sitting in the warming room in the air cargo area with the dog for 11/2 hours. The agents thought I was nuts, but my Beardie sure appreciated it. When shipping, we stay at the airport and are available until takeoff time. We then ensure the dog is on the flight and the flight took off before we leave. 'We then call the person receiving the dog with all the vital information: expected arrival time, to be certain to bring a leash and other last minute instructions, and instructions to phone to let us know when the dog has safely arrived. 

When travelling with your Beardie, once your dog has been taken for loading and you have arrived at the boarding gate, you should inform the agent that there is a dog on the flight. We also tell the stewardess and request to be informed when the dog is actually loaded. We actually don't board until we know the dog is on the plane. We request the same on arrival to our destination. You may get mixed reactions to this type of behaviour but the cabin crew can communicate with the ground and loading crew. And, we feel we must act as advocates for our dogs to ensure their safety. 

When you arrive at your destination, your dog will be usually be delivered to a special area in the baggage area of the terminal. Again, check with an agent as you deplane. If crossing borders, you will have to arrange customs inspection when you arrive. You will not be able to release your dog from it's crate until inspected. Most airline terminals do not allow you to release your dog from the crate inside the terminal. So you will have to scout out a spot where you can safely remove your dog from it's crate. Have your leash ready and expect an urgent need to go! 

After air travel, it's best to feed and water your Beardie only lightly for the first 12 hours. If it's especially warm, watch your Beardie for early signs of dehydration and heatstroke, as you would if travelling by car. 

With planning and preparation, shipping or travel with your jet-set Beardie can be safe and problem-free. Enjoy your destination!

Copyright © 1997 [Cathy Goetz-Perry]
All rights reserved


© Bearded Collie Club of Canada 1997 - 2010
All rights reserved

Last revised: November 11, 2010