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Essential Tips for Ensuring Your Pet’s Safety During Air Travel Emergencies

Standard safety regulations do not cover dogs or cats during air travel..

Recent incidents, including a burning airliner, a blown-out door panel, and extreme turbulence, underscore the critical importance of aviation safety procedures. For passengers, these precautions—such as seat belts, oxygen masks, and life jackets—are thorough, essential, and straightforward.

However, the guidelines for assistance animals and cabin pets are less clear.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations cover personal protective equipment and procedures, and flight attendants instruct passengers to leave all hand luggage behind during an emergency evacuation. Unfortunately, this directive does not make exceptions for pet carriers.

Travelers who bring assistance animals or cabin pets aspire to never be in such a precarious scenario. Deborah Mandell, however, advises passengers to have a plan of action. She is a professor of clinical emergency and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The American Red Cross pet care advisor Mandell stated, “It’s really important to be prepared and to think about all these things.”

Protect your pet from turbulence.
Some airlines, like Delta, permit passengers to carry their confined pet on their lap during non-takeoff, non-landing, and taxi phases. However, cabin dogs must stay in their kennels at all times. Owners should tuck the kennel under their seat in the event of choppy air; this is the safest location for the animal and, consequently, any other passengers in the vicinity.

Rather from using a soft-sided bag for traveling, critical care veterinarian Liz Rozanski of Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine advises using a hard-shell pet case. She stated, “The stiffer ones are more akin to a child’s seat.” Water bottles and other rolling objects can be repelled more effectively by a sturdy case.

Soft bedding will act as protective padding inside the enclosure. Mandell advises getting rid of any toys or food that could become projectiles.

Service dogs are exempt from certain restrictions and are permitted to sit in the open, at their owners’ feet, or on their laps. Put your assistance dog inside as soon as the pilot activates the seat-belt sign, if you have one. Mandell advised seating the dog on the floor, cradling it between your legs, and giving it a secure, consoling hug—”as long as you’re not putting yourself at risk”—if you don’t have one.

Utilize an extra oxygen mask.
Every airline seat has an oxygen mask and additional items meant for lap babies. Although it has happened in the past, airlines do not specifically state if people can use a spare mask for their pet. An oxygen mask was used by JetBlue flight attendants in 2018 to assist Darcy, a French bulldog who was having respiratory difficulties.

In line with the guidelines for adults traveling with kids, passengers should assist their pet after donning their mask. Remember that the equipment is not designed for the faces of dogs or cats, so it could take some getting used to masking an animal. Mandell stated that larger breeds, like German shepherds or Great Pyrenees, might find it more difficult to suit the apparatus.

“It may or may not stay on with just the elastic because of all the different conformations of dog heads,” the speaker stated. Thus, you might just need to hold it.

Mandell stated that certain animals would oppose to having a foreign object covering their snouts, based on her experience working in animal hospitals. The cup must be positioned by the pet’s owner so that the animal may breathe in oxygen. Avoid packing it too firmly on their nose as this may make it difficult for them to inhale.

The traveler and the pet would have to share if there was no backup mask available. Rozanski advised switching off the air every fifteen seconds or so.

Bring your own life jacket
Every passenger on an aircraft traveling over or close to a big body of water is required by law to have a life jacket, with certain versions even for infants. Though Mandell stated that you can bring your own pet life jacket, pets are not included in that calculation.

If your trip involves boat cruises in the Pacific Ocean or family swims in the pool at your vacation rental, then the equipment might be worth it. If you’re only bringing it for the flight, it’s probably overkill. Thankfully, commercial aircraft emergency water landings are quite uncommon.

Taking your pet with you when you evacuate
Flight crew members will direct passengers to the emergency exits and advise them to leave all carry-on luggage behind in the case of an evacuation. The FAA states that passengers must be able to disembark in 90 seconds or less. The procedure can be slowed down by looking for or carrying a bag; also, bags may puncture the inflatable slide.

The same applies to pet carriers, which are regarded as carry-on luggage.

Airlines like Southwest advise customers to take the cat or dog out of its container and hold it in their arms. (As every crisis is different, flight attendants will offer real-time counsel.) Experts on animals, however, cautioned against releasing a pet. For example, the pet may get frightened and escape through the plane, or its claws may puncture the slide.

Rozanski advises leaving the pet in its crate and handling the fallout afterwards. She declared, “I would take the carrier with me if the plane is burning up.” “Even if they say no, I would still jump.” Just be advised that disobeying or ignoring a flight attendant’s instructions may be deemed disruptive behavior.

Mandell advised trying to hold a larger dog on your lap with its back to your chest and its feet up in order to prevent it from sliding down. Its nails won’t shred the material in this way.

However, Rozanski pointed out that service animals are prepared for emergency scenarios, referencing the guide dogs that helped their masters escape the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and find safety.

She stated that since service dogs will obey commands, they “will not have a problem.”

Welcome to The! I'm Henry Edwards, a passionate dog lover and dedicated dog blogger. Here, I share my experiences, tips, and stories to help you and your furry friend enjoy a happy and healthy life together. Join me for: - Training…

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