I was hoping to fly across the country (New York to San Francisco) with my dog, as I'm taking a long, well-deserved vacation. Can he fly with me in the cabin, or would he have to go cargo? Is that even safe? What should I do? I'd love to take him with me...
–Tina, White Plains, N.Y.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to fly with your dog. If your dog is small enough to fly with you in the cabin, your risks are definitely minimized. In order to do so, your dog carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Check with your airline's Web site for size dimensions. Remember, not all airlines allow pets in the cabin, so be sure to check before selecting your ticket.
There are some things that you can do to minimize or eliminate health risks for your pup. Definitely make sure you have a nonstop flight between the New York area and San Francisco. Eliminating connections will reduce the possibility that something goes wrong in transit. A health certificate is also a necessity and should be obtained from a veterinarian with 10 days of your departure. When you visit the vet, be sure to ask about any health risks for your specific animal. For example, with short-nosed dogs like pugs and bulldogs, it's usually advised that they never fly due to potential breathing problems.
Remember, flying with pets is inherently dangerous when an animal is placed in cargo and away from your sight. Among the things that have gone wrong in the past are dogs (or cats) escaping, getting put in unpressurized holds where they can freeze to death, and even a few bizarre cases where animals died mysteriously.
If you simply don't want to risk it, consider leaving your dog behind at a pet hotel or with a trusted friend.
For more on the official rules and additional advice, click here.