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Have Pets Will Travel...Maybe

Cats should never roam freely in a car. Keep them in a carrier while traveling, or use one of the many feline safety restraint systems available for your kitty.

Cats should never roam freely in a car. Keep them in a carrier while traveling, or use one of the many feline safety restraint systems available for your kitty.

Sharing a trip with our best four-legged friends can be a memorable and fun experience. But is it best for them? It’s important to put their interests first. Not all animals are suited for travel, especially on long trips, due to temperament or other issues.

It used to be that finding lodging that accepted animals was nearly impossible. But today, with pets emerging as a huge customer demographic, and owners who suffer separation anxiety without them, taking them along seems almost too easy.

With pet travel on the rise, the hotel industry is rolling out the welcome mat. Hotels, from luxury to Motel 6, want their business and are luring furry travelers with special perks, such as toys and treats, special beds and doggie day care.

Sounds great, yet pet owners often fail to consider what’s involved when making the decision to take their beloved companions on a trip. It may not always be a vacation for the animal. Where to go, how to get there and where to stay are major decisions affecting the pet.

Most important is whether the pet travels well and adjusts easily to strange or radically different environs. Will it be safe for him? Will it be fun for you if all you do is stress? Is the destination appropriate for your critter? For example, most national parks don’t allow dogs on the trails. And why in the world would you take your cat?

“Travel methods and conditions play a large role in deciding whether or not to travel with your companion,” says Dr. Douglas Schrepel of Aspen View Veterinary Hospital. He sees nothing inherently wrong with taking pets on vacation, “But only if you know that your pet travels well and you are especially attentive to his/her needs.”

Getting Ready

Be sure the pet’s vaccinations are current. Pets should have a microchip, identification tags and full contact information on carriers.

Getting There

Riding in cars with pets. When the song of the open road calls, it’s so tempting to jump in the car with your pup and take off. But risks abound. Dr. Schrepel has treated many dogs for injuries suffered as a result of accidents or improper or no restraints. “Some examples include small dogs that fall out of car windows, dogs that are thrown from the bed of pickup trucks, and dogs and cats that escape at gas stations or rest stops,” he says.

Dogs should be restrained with a harness that snaps into a seatbelt. Cats are best left at home with a caregiver. But if they must travel, they should be kept in a carrier.

Always keep pets safely inside the car. They should not stick their heads out of windows, which can damage their eyes, force cold wind up their noses or get injured with flying debris.

Never, never travel with dogs in the bed of a pickup truck.

Pets should always wear collars with current tags and be on a leash when outside the car.

Never leave pets unattended in a car. “With Colorado Springs a popular tourist destination, this also means our Animal Law Enforcement officers find pets left in deadly conditions,” says Katie Borremans, associate director of communications at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. “Cars can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.”

Fear of Flying

Animal welfare experts caution against animals flying in the cargo hold at all costs. Animals are not cargo. “We highly recommend considering every alternative before flying with your pet, especially if they will be in the cargo area,” Borremans says. Animals in cargo are subjected to temperature fluctuations, poor ventilation, scarcity of oxygen and rough handling. Injury, loss and death are all too frequent. Brachycephalic animals like bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats should never travel by air.

Please note most airlines have pet embargo policies during summer’s hottest months, and don’t allow animals to travel as checked baggage or cargo. Being confined in their carriers for long periods of time in holding areas, terminal facilities and aircraft can cause dehydration and heat stroke with fatal results.

Some airlines allow small pets in the cabin if their carriers fit under the passenger seats. For extensive tips and warnings on pet travel, see the Humane Society of the United States website.

But really, it’s all about common sense. Leaving pets at home where they’re safe with a responsible caregiver or boarding kennel should not be a guilt trip. “Know your pet and be realistic,” says Dr. Schrepel. “With a little foresight and planning, travel can add another enjoyable dimension to life with your companion. And sometimes, you will just need to love your homebody dog or cat enough to leave them home.” 

Aspen View Veterinary Hospital

5925 Constitution Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80915

Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

610 Abbot Lane
Colorado Springs, CO 80905

Humane Society of the United States


Airline Animal Incidence Reports