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The Ruff Report: Holiday travel can be dangerous - even deadly - for pets

Your pet could be in danger of getting lost, injured or even killed unless you make proper preparations before hitting the road or hopping on a plane for the Thanksgiving weekend, the busiest four-day travel period of the year, a leading animal welfare agency warns.

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises pet parents to make sure their companions have proper identification, are healthy enough to make the trip and to bring all pet medications.

Traveling can be highly stressful, both for you and your animal companions," ASPCA executive vice president Stephen Zawistowski states in a media release. "With thoughtful preparation, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everyone.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving weekend, high periods of traveling with pets include the Christmas holiday as well as during the summer.

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Using products designed for pet travel - such as car safety seats and harnesses, anti-spill travel bowls, first aid kits and car travel ID tags - can make the trip much more comfortable for pets and their owners, Dr. Zawistowski says.

The increase in products specifically geared for pet travel and safety has made the experience that much easier for pet parents,” Dr. Zawistowski said. “It’s all the more reason families should take precautions to ensure that their pet’s travel is trouble-free.”

A visit to the veterinarian prior to the trip is a must, according to the ASPCA, to ensure a pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and to obtain flea/tick prevention and heart-worm medications. Pet parents should get a health certificate dated within 10 days of air travel and ask about any particular parasites or health risks that might be associated with the planned destination.

Air Travel

Here are some tips from the ASPCA for air travel with a pet:
  • Your pet should always wear a collar and identification tag with an address or cell phone number where you can be reached. Additionally, you should display a current photograph on your pet’s carrier and write the name, address, and telephone number of the person receiving the animal at your destination.
  • Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate. It should be large enough for your pet to comfortably stand, sit and turn around in. Write “Live Animal” in large letters on at least two sides of the crate, and use arrows to indicate the upright position of the crate. Make sure the door is securely closed, but not locked, so airline personnel can open it in an emergency.
  • Book a direct flight if possible to decrease your pet’s chances of being left on a tarmac or outside during extreme weather conditions. Tell every airline employee you encounter, on the ground and in the air, that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. This way, they will be ready if any additional considerations or attention is needed.
Automobile travel

Here are some tips from the ASPCA for automobile travel with a pet:
  • Keep your pet in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. Make sure it is large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in.
  • Outfit your dog with a harness and safety belt if your pet is riding in a seat. This will keep you pet secure in case of sudden stops or changes in direction.
  • Don't allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window. He could be injured by flying objects.
  • Cats should always be in a carrier.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in minutes, resulting in heatstroke for your pet. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  • Bring bottled water or tap water from your home stored in plastic jugs for your pet. Drinking different water can cause your pet to get an upset stomach.
  • Bring your pet’s rabies vaccination records. Some states require this proof at interstate crossings.
  • Make sure your pet has an ID collar with your home address and a temporary travel tag with your cell phone, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information.
Automobile safety belts of Amherst, New Hampshire, offers these tips, in another media release, about automobile safety belts and pets:
  • Put a dog in a safety belt or harness on all trips, even short ones.
  • Use restraints that offer mobility and freedom of movement. The dog should be able to move around a little and turn in the seat. 
  •  Put the dog in the back seat. The safest place is the middle of the back seat. Airbags in the front seat can be dangerous for pets.
 A checklist of pet items

The College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University suggests taking these items along for the trip:
  •  Plenty of your pet’s regular food and water.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • Pet medications and medical records, which might be needed unexpectedly. A first-aid kit is a good idea.
  • A crate or carrier to keep your pet confined when it is unsupervised.

Related reports about dogs and travel:
Must-have safety item when traveling with pets
 This common activity can injure - even kill - your pet
Holiday travel can be dangerous - even deadly - for pets

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The Ruff Report's dogs and safety Home Page

  • Identification tags with current contact information, including cell phone numbers.
  • A favorite toy or chew toys to help keep your pet occupied.
  • A familiar blanket or pet bed to help your pet feel safe a comfortable.

The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on


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