Safely Transporting Your Cat or Dog


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Safe Transport

Dogs:

Keeping dogs safe and healthy when they are transported is an important aspect of humane animal care. The following principles and practices can help ensure humane transportation of dogs: 

  • Keep the vehicle at a comfortable temperature using air conditioning or heat when necessary (never leave your pet alone inside the vehicle, even with windows partially open; it only takes minutes for an animal to develop heatstroke or freeze).
  • Feed the dog a light meal at least four hours before the trip (to help prevent car sickness).
  • Prevent the dog from sticking their head out the window (sudden stops and debris can cause injury). 
  • Schedule rest stops every two to four hours for exercise, bathroom and water breaks. 
  • Attach the dog’s leash before opening the car door (to prevent accidental escapes). 
  • If the dog is not used to travelling, use a harness (it’s more difficult to wriggle out). 
  • If crossing borders, bring a copy of any required documents (e.g. proof of vaccinations and health certificate).
  • Keep the car sound system volume moderate due to the sensitivity of dogs’ hearing.

Dogs need people who consider their need for clean, protected and safe transport.

Travel By Plane 

The rules for bringing pets on flights can change, so plan ahead and call to make sure that the dog can fly too. 

Get a kennel that is the right size for the dog. They should be able to stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably during the flight. 

Some airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin. Each airline should be checked for its restrictions and recommendations.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about transporting dogs?

REQUIREMENTS

  1. Personnel transporting dogs have adequate training and experience to maintain and ensure the health and well-being of the dogs throughout all stages of transport.
  2. Weather conditions are assessed before transport to prevent possible harm to the animal from excessive wind, rain, snow, heat, or cold.
  3. When injured, pregnant, or ill dogs are transported for medical reasons, they are kennelled separately from other dogs to prevent injury and the spread of disease. When dogs in such conditions need to be transported for any reason other than medical, fitness for transport should be determined by a veterinarian.
  4. Nursing puppies are transported separately from other dogs but with their dam, and are not mixed with puppies that are not part of the same litter. Care is taken to ensure the puppies are not accidentally injured by the dam during transportation.
  5. Before transport, dogs are conditioned to their container to learn to associate it with comfort and security.
  6. Containers for all sizes of dogs meet the requirements of the Live Animal Regulations of the IATA.
  7. Each container is clean, in good condition, is free of mechanical defects, is leak-proof, and contains absorbent bedding. Placement and construction of containers allow for visibility of the dog.
  8. Each container and transport vehicle is designed to provide adequate ventilation, humidity, air pressure (if appropriate), and temperatures suitable for the health, welfare, and comfort of the animals. Temperatures may not exceed 26°C.
  9. Prior to transport, ensure relevant health certificates, proof of vaccination, and import/export documents are available for review by authorities as required.
  10. Dogs that exhibit aggression are kept separate from other animals.
  11. Females in estrus are not transported in the same container as males.
  12. Dogs are transported in areas of vehicles with adequate light and ventilation.
  13. Containers holding dogs are properly secured and dogs are protected from adverse weather conditions.
  14. Proper communication occurs among all personnel involved during transportation.
  15. Emergency care is provided when necessary during transport.
  16. All dogs transported in the same container are compatible with each other.
  17. In vehicles, other than a personal motor vehicle, a thermometer is placed in the area of the transport vehicle at the level of the animals.
  18. During ground transport, breaks are provided at least every four hours for at least 20 minutes and during this time, dogs are provided with the opportunity to exercise, urinate, defecate, and drink water.
  19. The individual nutritional needs of each dog are met during transport.
  20. IATA standards are followed during air transport.
  21. If a dog is being transported to a foreign country, vaccination and health certification are in compliance with the importing country’s regulations, as required by law. Health certificates are issued to meet current airline requirements if the dog is being transported by air.
  22. Dogs transported by exposed or open vehicles such as motorcycles, pickup trucks, or flatbed trucks are secured with a proper restraining device or in a closed container.
Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (3rd Edition, 2018), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Cats:

Keeping cats safe and healthy when they are transported is an important aspect of humane animal care. The following principles and practices can help ensure humane transportation of cats: 

  • Keep the vehicle at a comfortable temperature using air conditioning or heat when necessary (never leave your pet alone inside the vehicle, even with windows partially open; it only takes minutes for an animal to develop heatstroke or freeze).
  • Feed the cat a light meal at least four hours before the trip (to help prevent car sickness).
  • Prevent the cat from sticking her head out the window (sudden stops and debris can cause injury).
  • Schedule rest stops every two to four hours for exercise, bathroom and water breaks (bring a litter box for cats).
  • Attach the cat’s harness or leash before opening the car door (to prevent accidental escapes). 
  • If the cat is not used to travelling, use a harness (it’s more difficult to wriggle out of). 
  • If crossing borders, bring a copy of any required documents (i.e: proof of vaccinations). 
  • Keep the car sound system volume moderate due to the sensitivity of cats’ hearing.

Cats need people who consider their need for clean, protected and safe transport. 

Find out more about travelling safely with your pet from the Ontario SPCA. 

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Catteries say about transporting cats?

  • Within the cattery, all animals should be handled on a daily basis to facilitate restraint and ensure socialization. 
  • Cats or kittens should be conditioned to their shipping container to learn to regard it as a comfort and security zone prior to shipping. 
  • Shipping stresses the animal by causing changes in immune function and thereby making it more susceptible to disease. 
  • Weather conditions should be assessed prior to shipping to prevent possible harm to the animal from excessive heat or cold.
  • Kittens should be at least 8 weeks of age before shipping and should be transported by the fastest route possible. If a kitten is to be in transit more than 4 to 6 hours, provision must be made for food and water en route. 
  • Every vehicle in which cats and kittens are transported must be free of mechanical defects and designed in such a fashion as to provide adequate levels of fresh air at a temperature suitable for the health, welfare, and comfort of the animals. 
  • Containers holding live animals should not be carried in trunks or in the open backs of vehicles. The vehicle should be designed and properly maintained in order to prevent the entrance of exhaust fumes. 
  • Individuals who are responsible for shipping animals should establish that those handling the animals in transit recognize their responsibility for the health, welfare, and safety of the animals. 
  • To ensure the welfare of cats and kittens during transportation, pre-planning is essential. This includes making certain that proper documentation, containers, fastest and safest routing, and notification of arrival are in place before the journey starts.
Excerpts from the Code of Practice for Cattery Operations (2009) by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have been used with permission.

Travel By Plane 

The rules for bringing pets on flights can change, so plan ahead and call to make sure that the cat can fly too. 

Get a kennel that is the right size for the cat. They should be able to stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably during the flight. 

Many airlines allow pets to travel in the cabin. Each airline should be checked for its restrictions and recommendations.


Photo courtesy of Erica Cheung

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