With the rules around travelling with pets having tightened in recent years, it can now be somewhat complex to venture overseas with your furry friend – thanks to various risks surrounding epidemics and security.
The recent incident involving United Airlines n the U.S. is a sad reminder that understanding rights and obligations is essential for travelling with pets – especially with the animal’s welfare in mind. Generally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) discourages travelling with animals, because of the potential to cause stress.
Here’s what you need to know when travelling with an animal:
The travel.gc.ca website recommends bringing your pet for a checkup before a long trip to make sure they are fit to travel, pointing out that a health certificate may be required by customs authorities for the animal to be allowed onto an aircraft or into another country – particularly the United States. This certificate must be signed by a practicing veterinarian and then an official government veterinarian less than 10 days prior to departure.
The Canadian International Health Certificate can be used to accompany dogs and pet cats when entering a foreign country. This certificate must be printed in legal size (8.5” x 14”).
Before leaving Canada, contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to find out about local requirements for importing animals.
Preparing for departure
Veterinarians agree that it may be useful to introduce your pet to the cage a few days in advance of travelling, allowing the animal to become familiar with it and acclimatized to its surroundings. If you’re travelling with a dog, it’s a good idea to take a long walk before flying. Stop feeding your pet throughout the day of the flight, but do not reduce its water consumption. It is mandatory, however, to give your pet a small meal two hours before the flight.
Most airlines have specific requirements for the transportation of animals. It is recommended that you contact the company you’re flying with well in advance to inform them that you will be bringing your pet.
In addition to having to pay for a checkup at the veterinarian and potentially having these documents authenticated by a Canadian government veterinarian, the carriers also charge a fee to supervise the transportation of pets.
Here are the recommendations issued by two of the largest carriers:
Pets: We accept only cats or dogs for carriage and only in the checked baggage hold.
Certified service dogs: When accompanied by certification and documentation and travelling with a person with a disability, certified service dogs are welcome in the passenger cabin of our aircraft.
Advance booking: When travelling with your pet cat or dog, please reserve space for them at least 3 days prior to departure. This ensures that the maximum number of pets per aircraft has not been exceeded. Passengers who have not made advance arrangements may be denied carriage of their animal.
Maximum weight: The maximum combined weight of an animal and its cage should be 32 kg (70 lb). If your animal and cage exceed this weight, please contact us to confirm if they will be allowed on board.
Check-in time: All animals must be ready, inside their cage and presented at the Air Transat check-in counters no later than 90 minutes prior to departure time. Animals presented after that time may be denied transport.
Restrictions: Air Transat does not transport pit bulls. In addition, certain breeds of dog are refused entry to some countries or regions. We are, therefore, unable to transport the following dog breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier; Boerbull; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Pit Bull Terrier; Mastiff; Tosa.
Cages: Larger cages must be shipped via Air Transat cargo and advance arrangements are required. The maximum combined weight of an animal and its cage is 32 kg (70 lb). Should your animal and cage exceed this weight, please contact us to verify acceptance. The animal must be in a cage approved for air transportation (IATA regulations) and bear the animal’s name. A plain rigid plastic cage is mandatory. Cages made of wire or any other material will not be accepted (a wire door is acceptable). All cage doors must be secured with a locking mechanism to prevent opening (see additional information below about supplemental strapping).
Rates and charges
- To and from Europe: CAD $275 each way per animal;
- To and from South/U.S.: CAD $150 each way per animal;
- Domestic flights within Canada: CAD $75 each way per animal;
- Upon entry into Canada: a CAD $30 fee (plus tax, per animal) will be required for inspection by Agriculture Canada. Arrivals from the U.S. are exempt.*
Cabin: You are welcome to bring your cat or small dog in the cabin with you, provided it is small enough to fit and stay comfortably in its carrier under the seat in front of you. You may do so on flights operated by Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge; Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz, Sky Regional, Air Georgian or Exploits Valley Air. Just remember that your pet in its carrier will count as one standard item toward your carry-on baggage allowance. Your pet cannot travel with you in the cabin if you are an accompanied minor; are seated in an exit or bulkhead row; require the use of a medical device that needs to be stowed under the seat; are travelling in Premium Economy on a Boeing 787-8 (788), Boeing 787-9 (789) or A330-300 (333) aircraft.
Baggage compartment: Your pet can't fly in the cabin with you? It can still travel safely and comfortably on the same flight as you, in the pressurized cargo compartment of most of our aircraft.
Reservation: You'll need to let us know in advance of travel if you plan on travelling with your cat or dog in the cabin or in the baggage compartment. The first thing you'll need to do is book your own flight. Once that's done, contact Air Canada Reservations to register your pet for travel on the same flight as yours. At the time of your call, you'll be asked to provide the dimensions of the carrier and the weight and breed of your pet. We strongly recommend that you register your pet within 24 hours of completing your booking. This will ensure that, if your pet cannot be accommodated on the flight(s) and date(s) you selected, your ticket will be refunded without charge. After 24 hours, any changes to your booking will be subject to applicable change and cancellation fees.
Breeds: Certain dog breeds are classified as strong dogs and must be transported in a special reinforced container or crate when travelling in the baggage compartment. Short/snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of cats and dogs cannot travel in the baggage compartment because they are susceptible to increased risks of heat stroke and breathing problems when exposed to extreme heat or stressful situations.
Charges: for one-way travel in the cabin – within Canada and Canada/U.S. (except Hawaii): $50-59 (CAD/USD); international: $100-118 (CAD/USD). For one-way travel in the baggage compartment – within Canada and Canada/U.S. (except Hawaii): $105-120.75 (CAD/USD); international: $270-318.60 (CAD/USD).
Maximum carrier size allowed: hard-sided – height: 23 cm (9 in); width: 40 cm (15.5 in); length: 55 cm (21.5 in). Soft-sided – height: 27 cm (10.5 in); width: 40 cm (15.5 in); length: 55 cm (21.5 in).
Pet carriers that exceed the maximum allowable size can be transported in the checked baggage compartment, provided they do not exceed 45 kg (100 lb) in weight, or 292 cm (115 in) in linear dimensions (length + width + height). Contact Air Canada Cargo (AC Animals) for rates and assistance in shipping even larger pet carriers.
Passing security at the airport...
If you are travelling with a pet in the cabin, they will also have to pass the security check. To do this, they must be taken out of their transport cage so that the cage can be scanned on the conveyor belt, like the rest of your hand luggage. You’ll hold your pet in your arms as you walk through the metal detector – under no circumstances should you give your pet to an agent!
Also, remember not to give your pet more water than is allowed for the security check.
…and taking flight
For animals travelling in the hold, you must not place food or water inside the cage because it can tip over inside the flight. Secure an empty bowl in the cage so that air personnel can feed the animal in the event of a delay.
It’s also strongly recommended to put a familiar object, such as a blanket or toy, in the cage to reassure the animal during the flight.