Summer vacation season beckons, and for some pets that means a visit to the kennel.
Other pets will find themselves home alone with an occasional visit from the neighbor kid to feed them. And still others will head to a vacation spot with their owners.
Fourteen percent of Americans planning a summer vacation this year will take pets, according to AAA. But taking Fido or Fluffy along isn't as easy as packing an extra suitcase. It can take substantial planning to avoid ending up with no place to stay or having your pet turned away at the airport. Below are some do's and don'ts for travel with pets:
l Do visit your veterinarian and make sure shots are up to date.
"The big thing that I think a lot of people don't know is that legally it's required that they have a health certificate when they cross state lines with an animal," says Lisa Lehman, a veterinarian with Polo Springs Veterinary Hospital in Colorado Springs.
The certificate, completed by a veterinarian, shows the pet is healthy and has no contagious diseases. Since there is little enforcement, most people don't bother getting a certificate when traveling by car with their pet, Lehman acknowledges. But it's a must if traveling by plane.
l Do your homework before flying your pet. In addition to a health certificate, airlines generally require a certificate of acclimation from a veterinarian stating the animal is OK to travel and under what conditions.
In addition to restrictions placed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Aviation Administration, each airline has rules regarding pets, whether they're in a carrier under your seat, checked in as luggage or shipped as cargo. Out of concern for the animal's health, for example, many airlines won't ship pets in baggage holds during the heat of summer.
"I think the best thing that people can do if they're flying is try and get as much information as possible," Lehman cautions. And try to gauge the stress of flying on your animal. The humane thing may be to leave it at home.
- Don't plan to take the bus. Greyhound and other interstate bus companies don't permit pets. Same with train travel: Amtrak doesn't allow pets, except for service dogs.
Cruises are pretty much out, too. Only the Queen Elizabeth II accepts pets. They're kept in the ship's kennel and allowed on only certain voyages.
- Do a trial run if you're driving with your pet for the first time. Try a day trip to see how the animal copes.
"It tends to be more of a problem with cats, because cats usually don't like going in the car," Lehman says. A cat may be most comfortable traveling in a secured pet carrier -- and "In a lot of those cases, a sedative is a good idea."
- Don't expect to stumble upon a hotel room for you and your pet while on the road. Call ahead.
"There may be pet-friendly rooms in a hotel or motel, but there are only so many," warns Barbara DeBry, owner of Puppy Travel, a Salt Lake City-based travel agency that specializes in arranging trips for pets and their owners.
- Don't leave your pet unattended in a parked car. On warm days, the temperature in your car can rise to 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows opened slightly, the Humane Society of the United States warns.