Read an Excerpt
no pet left behindThe Sherpa Guide to Traveling with Your Best Friend
By Gayle Martz Delilah Smittle
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Gayle Martz with Delilah Smittle
All right reserved.
Chapter Onethings to remember
Prepare the Basics
Before taking off on a travel adventure with your pet, you have some preparations to complete. This chapter will let you de-stress and focus on the fun of traveling with your pet by helping you collect and organize all of your pet's "travelbilia"-from paperwork, food, and medications to carriers, beds, and toys-ahead of time.
Because some travel regulations require a medical certificate issued within ten days of travel, the first priority is to take your pet to your vet for a medical examination. Make sure that your pet gets all of his shots and that the vet gives you a recent certificate of health geared to where you are traveling. In addition to collecting pet-maintenance supplies and vet records, you should review which pet papers are specifically required where you are headed and what the travel regulations are if you plan to take your pet across state and country lines. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/ac for government pet travel rules within the United States. For more interstate and international pet travel information, see resources, pages 190, 198.
Make a Loss-Prevention Kit
Every pet should have a basic care and identification kit in case of loss or the necessity of others caring for her. Make copies of important papers and care instructions, enclose them in a clear plastic zip-close bag, and attach that to your pet's crate. If you have one of my Sherpa Bag[R] soft-sided carriers, you can tuck them into the zip-close side pocket. If you have a hard-sided carrier, run a border of clear packing tape around the sides of the plastic bag to attach it securely. For hard-sided crates that have a tape-resistant slick finish, abrade the area with fine sandpaper, wipe clean, and then apply tape. Inside the bag include:
Copies of pedigree, license, health certificate, medical, and vaccination records, especially for a current rabies shot
Contact information for your pet's vet, kennel, and breeder
Your cell phone number and another emergency contact's phone number
Photos of your pet labeled with his name
Care and Feeding Papers:
Feeding instructions and prescriptions
Special-care instructions for any allergies, ailments, or disabilities
Shampoo brand and grooming instructions
Most of us never expect to lose our pet or to be directly affected by a natural disaster. But the unexpected does happen, and statistics show that many owners are caught by surprise and are unprepared. Identification tags are useful, and I recommend putting them on collars, leashes, and carriers. I also recommend that you fasten a duplicate set of pet tags to a halter before taking a trip and that you keep the halter on your pet at all times.
Permanent Pet ID
Although identification tags are important, in order to ensure that your pet will be returned to you if he is lost, it is best to have him marked with some form of permanent identification. There are two types of permanent pet identification:
Pet tattoos have for some time been effective in locating lost pets. An identification number is tattooed in legible numbers on the smooth skin of your pet's inner thigh. If the animal is found and reported to a vet or shelter, their office can look up the number and obtain contact information for the owner. The tattoo is constant, but the contact information can be updated as needed. Because of the large area of bare skin required, this type if identification is most suited to larger mammals, such as dogs and cats.
The microchip revolutionized the way owners protect their pets. The chip is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades. Each chip is encoded with a unique and unalterable identification code that can be activated only when read by a scanner, and each chip has an antimigration cap that helps prevent movement of the chip within your pet's body. Most vets can inject a pet with a microchip during a routine exam.
A not-for-profit organization called Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) was founded in June 1995 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and is dedicated to providing lifetime recovery services for animals that have been inserted with a microchip. After a pet has had a microchip inserted, the ID number is enrolled with CAR, which maintains a worldwide enrollment database and a recovery service that works 24/7 all year long. The AKC recommends the HomeAgain[R] microchip, which is marketed by the Schering-Plough Animal Health Corporation.
Shelters, rescue organizations, animal control officers, and veterinarians use scanners to identify lost pets. When a pet is found, CAR is contacted. Phone calls, fax, and e-mail technology go into fast action to notify the owner. As an incentive, many municipalities issue a lifetime license with a one-time charge to owners of microchipped pets. For more information, see resources, page 201.
The beauty of this system is that pets of most species (not just large mammals) can have a microchip inserted and be enrolled in CAR, and as with tattoos, your contact information can be easily changed or updated as needed.
Unique IDTags to Make or Order
With a little ingenuity, and little or no cost, you can create temporary tags that will let anyone who finds your pet know where to return him. If you are staying at a hotel or campground, fasten its business card to your pet's collar by wrapping a strip of strong, waterproof clear tape around the collar and the card. If no paperwork is handy, write out your contact information by hand and tape it to your pet's collar.
You can make your own tags at a tag-making vending machine, which you'll find at many pet-shop franchises. These tags are big enough for three or more lines of type (include your cell phone number and address where you are staying). It is also a good idea to create one of these tags to alert people to any chronic diseases or problems. An online service also offers ready-made pet Medical Alert Tags that are listed with the National Pet Health Registry. You can choose stainless steel tags with labels such as "seizures" or "blind," and each is engraved with a unique ID number. The ID number, including your pet's medical and veterinarian information and your pet's photo, is registered in PetHealthAlert.com's National Pet Health Registry. Download a free tag order form online (www.pethealthalert.com) or request a free tag order form by mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope to Pet Protect PetHealthAlert, P.O. Box 11447, Naples, FL 34101.
Label the Crate
Ensure that your pet's travel bag has identification tags labeled with contact telephone numbers (cell numbers are recommended). You may also want to include either the number of a friend or relative who lives outside your area, or phone numbers and contact information for your destination. I also recommend adding a tag that has your pet's picture and name.
If you have a large dog or exotic pet that must travel in a hard-sided crate, you can help attendants keep an eye on your pet's crate by personalizing it with colorful spray paint. Painting the pet's name on the crate in large letters will invite attendants to say hello and reassure your pet by using his name. You can also stencil on designs and signs. For example, stencil "Do Not Open Without Owner's Permission" to help protect against loss.
If you are short on time (or not a great painter), shop the Web or your local pet store for easy-to-read, airline-approved pet-crate identification signs, rescue signs, and decals. For around $10, these plastic signs come in a kit, along with airline-approved forms for emergency information and care and feeding instructions, and even food and water dishes that fasten to crate doors. When shopping, don't overlook "rescue" signs designed for home windows. Post one of these in a hotel room, car, or RV window to alert those who enter in an emergency that there is a pet on board.
In addition to a carrier for each pet, make sure you have sturdy leashes and harnesses to ensure that your pets cannot slip loose and get lost. Leashes, collars, and pet carriers should all have identification tags. It's a good idea to invest in an extra harness and leash-I prefer harnesses for both safety and security, as they are harder for a pet to slip out of. For a list of stores and Web sites, see the resources section.
Other Helpful Travel Items
The Trappings of Travel
What about blankets, beds, bowls, and the other accoutrements of a traveling pet? When it comes to carrier or crate travel, requirements for these items can get pretty specific. To satisfy airline regulations, you must attach food and water bowls or water tubes to the door of a pet's carrier, crate, or cage, and they must be accessible without opening the door. Many carriers come without accessories, but you can find these inexpensive snap-on bowls and water tubes in any pet store. They are convenient, but have small capacity, so you may also want to take along a pet canteen for refills and to pack full-sized pet bowls to use when you reach your destination.
Blankets and beds need to be absorbent and washable; carry an extra in case one gets soiled. You can put your pet's bedding in the carrier if it meets these needs, or buy a couple of specially designed crate beds that fit your pet's carrier.
Soft Carriers and Accessories
My Sherpa's Pet Trading Company[R] offers a line of totes and backpacks that provide options for carrying small- to medium-sized pets, whether on foot, in a car, or on public transportation. The totes and backpacks have mesh ventilation panels, roomy zippered pockets, an inside leash ring, and they come with a washable faux lamb's fleece liner (for proper sizing, see page 28-29).
The micro-fiber backpack is a versatile carrier, with straps that adjust from a shoulder bag to a full backpack. Like other Sherpa Bag[R] carriers, the backpack easily fits under an airline cabin seat.
Purse-style pet totes look like luxurious shopping bags and come in a selection of tailored or feminine fabrics with matching pet ID tag and a cushioned, washable bottom pad. Mesh panels allow pets plenty of air, and locking zippers and an interior leash ring provide security. These people-friendly bags have generous handles that loop over the arm or shoulder.
Coordinating accessory pouches slide over my soft-sided carrier's handles and make a handy place to stash toys, leashes, and other pet essentials. A selection of leashes and collars made of vinyl-reinforced fabric with silver-tone hardware and keepers match all styles of my soft-sided carriers.
When it comes to car travel, Sherpa[R] covers your seats with a pet-proof, washable seat cover made of plush velour with a water-resistant nylon backing. The faux-fur pet throws keep pets comfortable and furniture clean at home, in a hotel, or in the car.
While your pet's size dictates the size and type of carrier you'll need, other aspects of your pet, such as her age and personality, create special needs that you should address to ensure her comfort when traveling.
What to Pack for Common Travel Aches and Pains
Even the healthiest pet can fall victim to temporary travel illness. If your pet suffers from motion sickness, lack of appetite, allergies, or temperature extremes, be prepared. If you know that your pet is prone to travel ailments, talk to your vet about the treatments you should pack for your trip. For warm-blooded pets, such as dogs, cats, and parrots, pack soda crackers or plain oatmeal to settle their stomachs and bread to soak in water or lettuce for birds, rodents, and cold-blooded pets for a treat that will also hydrate. If your pet is sensitive to cold, pack a sweater or a blanket to cover the cage. It is also wise to carry a small spray bottle with water, as most animals and birds will cool off when spritzed with tepid water under their forelegs (the place that corresponds to your armpits). Another item to ward off the effects of heat is a bandana, which you can moisten with water and wrap around the neck of a dog or cat, if she will tolerate it. For more on travel first aid, see page 202.
Gearing Up for Various Modes of Public Transportation
According to AAA, the most popular form of travel with pets is by car, and for good reason. Most states prohibit animals from riding on buses, and similar regulations restrict travel on trains. Exceptions are made for guide and service dogs accompanying blind and disabled persons. No pets, except service animals, are permitted on Greyhound[R] buses or Amtrak trains in the United States. However, rules and policies change periodically, so check with Greyhound[R] and Amtrak before planning a trip. Local rail and bus companies may allow pets in small carriers, but this is more of an exception than common practice. Airlines accept pets on an individual carrier basis.
Be sure to check the individual carrier's rules in advance to keep your pet from being rejected or possibly confiscated. When you buy your ticket, specify the species of animal, because some may be banned. Once you determine whether the company permits your pet to travel, be sure to find out the details regarding what documentation and type of carrier or crate you need.
Whether you plan to take a short trip by car or taxi or a full-fledged vacation, you need basic equipment, including a leash, halter, and identification tags (if your pet does not wear a halter, fasten tags to the carrier or cage). Be sure to use washable bedding, pack your pet's favorite food and treats, and keep him supplied with water from home (strange drinking water can upset stomachs).
Did You Know?
Traveling Babies Need TLC
Babies of all species suffer separation anxiety when they leave their mother. Often a pet's first trip is when he leaves his mother and siblings to travel to his new home. To ease the transition, ask the breeder to put a piece of used pet bedding into your carrier to comfort the baby as he travels to his new home. After you bring him home, put the "security blanket" into his new bed, along with a piece of your clothing, so that your new little one will adjust to the scents of his new home.
Sizing Your Pet to a Carrier
Soft-sided Sherpa Bag[R] pet totes are great for local jaunts but do not meet airline requirements. If your goal is to take your pet into the airline cabin, you should purchase an airline-approved soft-sided carrier. Sizing is important-your pet's carrier should provide safe and comfortable travel. For a proper fit, begin by carefully measuring and weighing your pet.
When measuring your pet, length refers to the area from the nape of the neck (where the collar falls) to the base of the tail. Height is measured from the floor to the shoulder. Weight is important because your pet must not exceed the maximum weight allowances for the carrier you choose.
Once you have your pet's measurements, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for choosing the correct carrier bag size. Your pet should be able to stand up and turn around when the carrier is closed (which is more than you can do in your airline seat!).
Generally, cats use the medium bag. Small carrier bags are only for the teeniest teacup dog breeds. Medium bags accommodate most small dogs weighing fewer than sixteen pounds. Large bags are suitable for animals between sixteen and twenty-two pounds. The exact fit will depend on the shape and dimensions of your pet. Remember that this carrier is a "room" for your pet and not a mobile home-do not go overboard on the size. Sherpa, my Lhasa Apso, is a helpful example. Sherpa traveled in a medium-sized bag. She was sixteen inches long from the nape of her neck to the base of her tail, was ten inches high at the shoulder, and weighed fifteen pounds. Look for a carrier bag that is durable, adequately ventilated, and made from an easy-to-clean material. Today, so many styles, colors, and designs are available that you may decide to purchase more than one bag to coordinate with what you (and your pet) are wearing or to reflect your travel destination.
If your dog is too large to fit under an airline seat, use the same measurement rules to size your dog to a hard-sided travel crate. Take your dog to the pet shop to "try on" a new carrier or crate. She should be able to stand up and turn around in it to meet airline requirements.
Excerpted from no pet left behind by Gayle Martz Delilah Smittle Copyright © 2007 by Gayle Martz with Delilah Smittle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.