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How airlines treat your pets

Kitty on a plane
Kitty on a plane
Karen Nichols

Many airlines claim to be able to safely transport your pet. As Delta puts it, "Pets can fly. But whether your pet gets carried on, checked in or shipped as (very special) cargo, we’ve put requirements and restrictions in place to make sure your furry friend is comfortable and safe. Get familiar with these guidelines to ensure your jet-set pet is happy and healthy from takeoff to landing." Yet there are all kinds of hazards our "very special cargo" is subjected to that can result in injuries, death, or simply the loss of pets.

First, there's cargo vs. carry on. When put in the cargo hold of the plane there are multiple risks and factors that affect your pet. Temperature and air pressure are not regulated there, subjecting your pets to possible oxygen deprivation and extreme temperatures. However, because of this some airlines may restrict pet travel during certain months in summer and winter. Another factor to consider with putting your pet in the cargo is that the animals wait to be loaded outside the plane with you luggage. This means that they are subjected to the same outside noise that human workers are required to wear protective noise cancelling headgear for. Even though the level of noise on the ground is too harmful for our human ears, they are subjecting our pets, who have much more acute and sensitive hearing, to these loud noises.

There is also the matter is keeping your pet hydrated, especially during longer flights. Water and food systems can easily come loose or break during turbulence, leaving your beloved family member without these essentials.

These are all factors that contribute to many animals dying, being lost, or injured during flight in the cargo hold of a plane.

However, even the seemingly safer choice of carrying your pet with you onto the plane still has problems. Usually required to store pets under the seat, they can be squished if in a soft carrier, especially if the person in front of you chooses to recline their seat.

Airlines are still regarding pets as cargo, not family. If you're going to fly with your pet, please take all of these hazards into consideration, especially when picking your airline.