Happy Tails Alerts

Fall Season

We love helping pets have a smooth move and want to help you too!

At this time, generic e-mail inquiries and replies to Pet Travel Form submissions are taking about 2 business days from the time they are received. Priority goes to existing clients and those traveling the soonest.

In order to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction, and give our full attention to each client, we require at least 10 business days to accommodate domestic ground transport, and at least 15 business days to accommodate domestic air travel, from the date a signed contract is received.

We regret to inform you that all international services are currently suspended.

If you are interested in working with us, the quickest way to receive a response is to fill out our Pet Travel Form.  It will provide us with the additional details we need to see how we can best assist you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We look forward to working with you!

Frequently Asked Questions about Pet Air Travel

What services do you provide?

Our service is Air Travel Consultation. We arrange both domestic and international pet air travel and relocation services. We help with all the arrangements of your pet’s VIP relocation from start to finish. This includes the following:

  • We make sure all travel requirements are met
  • We make sure all federal & international country requirements are met; including ensuring all pre-requisites for travel and entry into specific countries are met and helping to guide you through each step of the process
  • We research all the flight options available
  • We provide you with proper flight documents
  • We make sure you know exactly what is needed for check-in and pick-up at the airport
  • We can arrange pick-up/delivery to or from the airport if you need assistance on either end of your pet’s relocation
How does pet relocation work?

We work with you in creating a customized travel plan for your pet(s).  This starts with us receiving your signed contract.  As soon as we receive your signed contract, we will begin planning your pet’s relocation.  This includes us sending you a list of the needed documents and vaccinations your pet must have to fly, as well as country requirements if your pet is flying internationally.  We also provide detailed travel crate information including size and type of crate needed for your pet(s) travel.  Then based on your desired travel date, we will conduct flight research to find the best flight for your pet.

Due to the nature of pet travel, not all airlines or aircrafts can accommodate live animals.  Once we reserve the flight, we will create a customized travel timeline based on your travel date, specifying when your pet must go to the vet for their health certificate and when paperwork needs to be turned into the USDA (the USDA only applies to international relocation).  We will review all of your paperwork and documentation to make sure it is filled out correctly, so that there are no delays.

If you need assistance getting your pet to or from the airport, we can arrange short distance ground transportation for them.  If you decide to take your pet to the airport on your own, we will call you a few days prior to your pet’s flight and walk you through the check-in process and where to go, as well as providing a detailed itinerary with this information.

On the travel day, we will be tracking your pet’s flight from start to finish and updating you along the way.  Our job is not complete until everyone is safe and happy at your destination point!

Why does it Cost More for you to Reserve my Pet's Flight?

We must relocate pets as live animal manifested cargo.  In doing so, pets are transported in the live animal section of the plane, where their airfare is based on their weight in their crate.

If you reserve your pet on the same flight on which you are traveling, you can tie your pet to your reservation in which case they would count as access baggage. Similarly, if your pet is small enough to fit in-cabin, your pet can be considered one of your carry-ons.  This method of travel is limited to which types of animals, breeds, and sizes qualify.

We are unable to assist with pet owner's reservations which is why we cannot relocate pets that are traveling in cabin, or linked to your personal reservation.  As an IPATA agent we must relocate pets as live animal manifested cargo which is a separate reservation and more expensive than being linked to the owner's reservation.

What type of crate does my pet need? Why does my pet need a special reinforced crate? Do you rent crates?

There are federal laws that require certain specifications for a travel crate that is accepted by airlines. The pet must be able to stand, turn around, and lie down without restriction. They must have at least 2-3 inches clearance from the top of their ears or head (whichever is higher) to the roof of the crate. There is a measuring chart that we can use to help determine pet size; it is better to be a little too big than a little too small! We provide a customized shopping list for each pet. It is important to have the right one, prepared properly, or a pet can be turned away by the check in agent.

Overall Requirements

For pets traveling in the cargo hold, all airlines require that the crate be hard-sided with a metal grill door. Overall, the crate must be 4-sided hard plastic with a solid bottom half, held together with metal bolts and nuts, and a metal grill door.  For cargo, crates cannot have wheels, plastic doors, latches, a door on top of the crate, or be collapsible.

While all pets require an airline approved travel crate, some airlines have different requirements for certain breeds.  This is because certain breeds are stronger than others and they want to make sure your pet and the handlers are safe during your pet’s relocation.  Some pets are simply too tall, long or heavier than can withstand standard travel crates and require a custom-built crate so that they can comfortably fit. Not all airlines will accommodate custom-built or extra tall crates. 

Regardless of the flight length, each carrier should have two bowls: one for food and one for water.  We recommend Smart Crock or LIXIT (10 oz).  The best way is to attach the bowls to the metal door. This way the bowls can be refilled without needing to open the crate.

Chargeable Weight

Airlines charge airfare based on the pet’s weight in its crate, so owners do not want to get an overly large crate.  Additionally, each aircraft has maximum kennel sizes it can accommodate, so you want to ensure your pet can be accommodated on the recommended flight.

Can my Pets Share a Crate?

Per airline rules, each pet must travel in their own carrier.  The only exception is if it is a mom and new kittens/puppies, or two siblings under 6 months old and 20 pounds total.

Will my Pets be let out of their Crate during Travel?

If the travel day will be more than 8 hours, during a layover, pet owners can arrange a comfort stop for pets to be let out of their carrier, fed, and exercised (additional expenses apply). Otherwise, pets will stay in their carrier the entire time.

Will my Pets be Fed and offered Water?

While pets should not have a heavy meal before flying, or a full meal in the crate with them, a few pieces of dry food can be left in the carrier with them.

For water, we suggest freezing the bowl with water the night before, so that it slowly defrosts during the travel day and does not spill everywhere.  Before the flight, and during any layovers, airline personal will check to make sure the pet still has water in the crate and will refill it as needed.

Do you Rent Crates?

We do not rent crates because it is best that each pet has their own personal crate, so they can become accustomed to it and have their own "safe" place.  The crate is yours to keep once you buy it online or at a pet store.  As part of our service, we are happy to order a crate for you, which can be delivered to you if we have enough time and if your pet is already crate trained.  We can also have one provided when your pet is picked up for their professional transport, if you chose this route. We suggest maximum time for a pet to become familiar with the crate so that they are more comfortable with their surroundings during their flight.

Crate Recommendations

Recommend brands include: Petmate Sky Kennel, Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel, & Grreat Choice Dog Carrier.

Poor Brands: If crate looks cheap and flimsy, it is not suitable for air travel.  Nylabone, Doctors Foster and Smith, Bargain Hound, Travel Aire, Navigator (any brand with ‘Navigator’ series is bad) and Ceaser Milan.

How to Acclimate your Pet to their Crate

We recommend purchasing the crate as early as possible. Leave the crate out in a common area, so your pet can see and explore it.  You want your pet to be as comfortable with the crate as possible prior to the travel, so that they are in a familiar setting during an unfamiliar experience.

Pet owners can also put in a blanket or shirt with their scent on it, to make the pet(s) more comfortable during travel.

For additional information, you may also find this video helpful: How to Get Your Pet Ready in Their Travel Crate!

What countries do you provide services to?

Our International Pet Travel Specialists can accommodate many countries. The countries we are able to relocate pets to/from is dependent on the country requirements and whether or not we have a partner agent in the opposite country as we like to have someone looking after your furry family member on both sides of the transport. 

Our Pet Travel Form is automatically populated with all countries across the world.  While we do our best to accommodate each relocation, having your desired country on our drop-down menu does not guarantee we are able to offer services to that country.

If you have questions about a specific country, please submit a Pet Travel Form and our Pet Travel Specialists will let you know if we care able to assist.

Why can’t my (certain breed) fly? Why are there certain restrictions for my pet’s breed?

Certain breeds are more sensitive to air travel and changes in the temperature and altitude than others.  This is especially true for brachycephalic, or snub-nose dog breeds, such as English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, or Boston Terriers.  As Happy Tails Travel and the airlines are looking out for your pet’s safety, first and foremost, not all airlines are able to accept certain breeds.  If certain breeds are accepted, usually there are temperature restrictions where these breeds cannot travel if the temperature is below 45 or above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Other restrictions apply to larger dog breeds which are typically heavier and are stronger than the average breed.  Some of these breeds require reinforced or custom-built crates, which are made from metal or wood instead of the generic plastic travel crates you can buy at the pet store.  These crates are to ensure the safety of your pet during transport.

We will walk you through any specific requirements your pet’s breed may need to follow for air transportation.

Why don’t you ship pets on weekends?

Many pets must fly in and out of an airline’s cargo building.  On the weekends cargo facilities have limited hours, if they are even open at all, which effects pet relocation.  Over the weekend there are also fewer options available which can accommodate live animals.  With international travel, no pets are accepted from the US for customs clearance upon arrival if arrival falls on a weekend day.

Can you accompany my pet? Is my pet going to be in cargo?

We do not accompany pets while traveling.  We specialize in commercially relocating cats and dogs, where they fly as manifested live animal cargo.  As such, they fly as unaccompanied and therefore must fly below the main cabin. 

While many people refer to this area as “cargo”, it is a separate area for live animals that is fully temperature controlled, pressurized, and oxygenated for their comfort. 

If your pet has any layovers they will wait in another live animal facility and be transported to and from the aircrafts in air-conditioned or heated vehicles.

How safe is air travel for pets?

Airline travel is very safe for pets if your pet is healthy, you select the right airline with the most direct flight possible, and you have the correct crate. We have been shipping pets since 1995 and have not ever had a lost or injured pet. Part of our service is ensuring optimal safety and comfort during your pets’ travel experience, and we offer many helpful suggestions to help provide a smooth move.

How can you relocate pets, when I hear that the airlines do not?

Not all airlines have the same regulations when relocating pets. Airlines differ in their policies, such as: if they accept live animals at all, which breeds they accept, how many pets can go on any one flight, and the temperature for which certain breeds can fly.  We are familiar with the policies of all major airlines.

With our experience, we can find a great flight option for your pet, even during the hottest summer months or the coldest winter months.  We are very selective in which airlines we work with and only work with those which have certain pet policies in place so that your pet is safe and comfortable.

Can I hire your company to only book the flight or only complete the paperwork?

We do not offer a la carte services, such as paperwork completion or flight booking only. Travel to many places requires extensive documentation and vet visits, and we want to ensure everything is completed correctly. Additionally, we only offer a comprehensive travel service that includes flight booking, because if there were to be an issue with any of the paperwork, preparation, or flights, this can cause serious delays that can be both stressful and expensive.

What are your fees and the cost? Do you have a payment plan?

We have a fee for our services, which is the Air Travel Consultation, that allows us to plan your pet’s relocation from start to finish, by: providing you with all the customized information you need, booking your pets flight, checking any paperwork and any other services you require.  The Air Travel Consultation fee ranges from $425 - $950, depending on your pet’s destination.  Then there is the airfare, which is based on your destination, airline used, your pet’s weight in their crate, and the day of the week your pet is traveling.  For a $35 fee, we will send out a personalized pet packet that includes crate labels, the flight ticket, itinerary, and a few other items for your pet’s travel day.

If your pet is traveling internationally, we will pre-fill all the needed veterinarian documents and provide detailed instructions/information on how to complete these documents.  This packet runs from $50 - $300, depending on your specific pet needs, and is not optional. If your pet is traveling internationally you may need to hire a customs clearance agent.  Some countries let you do this on your own, but others require that you hire a professional import agent.  Lastly, there are fees for any additional services you may require such as purchasing a travel crate, or transportation for your pet to or from the airport.

Our policy is to take payment in two parts.  The first is our Air Travel Consultation fee, which is the fee for our services that allows us to begin planning your pets’ relocation and making the necessary arrangements.  The second is the payment for the remaining services, such as airfare, customs clearance and ground transportation if needed.  You are welcome to make smaller payments between the two, but the total amount must be paid at least 3-10 days prior to your pets’ travel date.

How long does the travel take?

Your pet’s flight will depend on their departure and destination.  However, most pets are relocated within the same day. They will fly just like you and may have a layover along the way.

While we try to find direct flights for our clients, it is not always an option as not all airlines or aircrafts can accommodate live animals.  If a layover is required, we will make it as short as possible.  There are mandated minimum lengths of layovers for pets, which ensures that your pet can be checked on, offered water and given time to get to their next flight.  We will track their entire travel from start to finish and update you along the way!