It's understandable if you want to travel with your pet – it's your furry best friend, after all. But if you're going by plane, how safe is putting your pet in cargo? Over two million pets travel on commercial airlines every year, but not every story has a happy ending. The risks of traveling with pets on planes are everywhere, from fluctuating temperatures in cargo holds to animals getting lost once they're on the ground. Even the most "pet-friendly airlines" can't guarantee a 100 percent risk-free trip. Things can go seriously wrong for your pet, and there are even horror stories of dogs dying on planes.
Thankfully, a flight with your fur baby most likely won't end in heartbreak. And there are a few things that you can do (or be aware of) that will make your flight as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Cargo Holds Can Be Extremely Dangerous For Pets
You may want to reconsider before you check your pet into the cargo hold. They're prone to wildly fluctuating temperatures, huge changes in air pressure, and extreme noise levels, all of which cause distress to animals.
The Humane Society of the United States strongly advises against pets traveling in a cargo hold; they claim it is much too stressful and dangerous for most animals. If you must travel on a plane with them, it's better to bring them along in the cabin.
Air Travel Is Especially Risky For Certain Breeds
The American Humane Society suggests getting a veterinarian exam before bringing any pet along for a trip, especially if you already have concerns about their health. But some pets, including "snub-nosed" dogs and hairless cats, are genetically bad flyers.
With fluctuating temperatures, cargo holds can easily become dangerous for hairless or short-haired animals with no defense against cold. And bulldogs or pugs (or even Persian cats) that have shortened nasal passages may have a harder time breathing with changes in air pressure. In fact, most of these breeds are banned from air travel entirely.
United Was Responsible For Over One Third Of Animal Deaths Since 2012
From January 2012 to February 2017, there were 136 animal deaths reported across all US airlines. United was responsible for 53 of them.
The airline was thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons once again in April 2017, when a giant rabbit named Simon died while traveling with United from the UK to America. Even with its PetSafe program, United has earned a negative reputation for its handling of both pets and people.
Some Animals Are Lost In Transit
Deaths and injuries aren't the only things owners need to worry about when their pets fly commercial. You might think that, with such high levels of security, it would be impossible to lose an animal within an airport. Sadly, that's not true. Pets have gone missing from airports after being checked in for flights.