In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka tells how stressful it is for a pet to travel and how to make the journey more comfortable
By Maneka Gandhi
Do flights allow pet animals to travel in the cabin with the owner?
Even though regulations regarding pet travel in flights in India are largely similar, there are a few points which differ from airline to airline. Flights like Jet Airways, Vistara, Air India, Spice Jet allow pets 8 weeks and older while some airlines only accept animals 12 weeks and older. Pregnant animals and suckling offspring are generally not allowed on the plane. While certain aggressive animals and cross-breeds are also off-limits in airplanes.
Only Air India is known to allow pets in the cabin area, while others transport the pets in the freight area in pressurised temperature controlled areas. But, it is essential to check-up and clarify details regarding the policy about animals on-board with the airline themselves. Make sure to ask all the necessary questions, regarding storage, condition for travelling requirements and any doubts, well in advance.
Is it safe to let animals travel in the baggage compartment of flights?
It is generally safe, but there have been a cases of animals lost, or misplaced, or death, while travelling. Jet Air and Air India have both had dogs die and cats escape. They always look for excuses not to pay compensation and unfortunately, after the initial moaning of the owner, none of them follow it up legally. I would not advise dogs with flat faces, like pugs, to be taken in the luggage.
How do I prepare my pet for air travel?
To travel by flight you will need to transport your pet in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved cage, which means a cage where your pet can comfortably stand up and sleep in and also comfortably take a round. You will also need to get health certificate, and rabies vaccination certificates, from your vet. Additional things to pack with you would be tags, or identification for your pet, basic medication and some treats to give when your pet lands.
Also ensure that you get your pet checked up by your Vet before a flight. Your Vet can also provide you more information about what to prepare and what to expect when travelling with your pet.
Can I travel with my pets by train?
Yes. Even though the Indian Railways only has a fixed policy for dogs, it allows other common domestic animals on-board as well. You can carry your pet with you if you are travelling in First Class Coupe, otherwise your pet will have to travel in the luggage car. However, you are liable for feeding and taking care of your pet. For detailed information and rules, contact Indian Railway and find out the details in advance, as some trains do not have dog vans.
Do I have to sedate my pet before travelling by air?
No. This is not recommended at all. If your pet is sedated there is a risk of him/her waking up mid-flight, which can be a source of stress or shock for your pet. However, in some extreme cases anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed to your pet only by recommendation of the vet. Please do not self-medicate your pet without professional guidance.
Is it stressful for a pet to travel? How can I make the journey more comfortable for my pet?
Yes, it can be stressful for a pet to travel, as it is an unnatural experience. Air pressure alone is enough to induce anxiety even in human beings. Furthermore, travelling exposes your pet to new sounds, smells and strange people. Additionally, your pet has to stay cooped up in a cage for a long time. Don’t feed your pet immediately before a flight. Take your pets for a walk, or some exercise, before the flight to help them release their energy and calm down slightly. Most importantly, keep yourself calm, as your pet can most likely sense your worry or anxiety.