Some people take their pets with them everywhere: their favorite bar, a parade, to work or wherever else the day requires them to go. Others seldom travel with pets except on vacation or when the family evacuates to escape a hurricane.
Regardless of how accustomed to travel your pet might be, here are some tips every pet owner should follow to keep their pets safe and comfortable and their travel as uncomplicated as possible.
• When gathering supplies for an evacuation, make sure you have at least five days’ worth of food and water for your pet — and bowls to serve them in. Store food in an airtight and waterproof container. Offer your pet water every time you stop, but don’t feed them in the car as it can cause motion sickness.
• Choose a pet carrier that is well-ventilated and large enough for your pet to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably. Get the pet accustomed to the carrier before you hit the road. Make sure the crate is labeled with your name, address, phone number and the location where you’re traveling.
• Keep things clean. Litter and a litter box are essentials for cats; dogs can use newspapers or a pee pad for toileting. Other items you’ll need include towels, trash bags and cleaners. If your pet isn’t housetrained, you may want to buy a waterproof seat cover and rubber floor mats.
• Make sure your pet is wearing a collar or harness with its rabies tags attached. You also can get a tag that details your pet’s name, your home address and cellphone number.
• Microchipping is recommended for animals who are traveling in case they get separated from their owner. If your pet already is microchipped, make sure all the contact information on the chip is up to date before you leave town.
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• Put your pet’s records in a waterproof container. Include microchip information, veterinary office information, adoption papers, immunization and medical records. (You also can take photos of these documents and save them on your phone.) If you are traveling to another state, make sure you know what documents that state requires, i.e. a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or other official health certificate. EU Pet Passports are available for pets traveling in Europe.
• Keep an extra supply (at least five days’ worth) of your pet’s regular medications in a waterproof container ready to pack in case of an evacuation.
• Pack your pet’s favorite blanket or toy (or put a T-shirt with your scent on it in its carrier). It may bring them comfort during the long trip.
• Before piling into the car (or plane), it’s a good idea to give your pet some exercise so it will be ready to sleep through the trip.
• Before the trip, acclimate your pet to car travel, starting with short trips to a park or elsewhere (not the vet), so they form a positive association with being in the car. Don’t allow them to roam freely in the car, which is dangerous for the animal and can cause distractions for the driver. If you don’t use a pet carrier, invest in a pet car seat or seat belt leash that will keep the animal restrained in the back seat.
• Drivers should not allow a pet to sit on their lap while driving as the animal could get squished between you and the steering wheel if you have to stop suddenly. It also could jump to the floorboard and interfere with proper brake and gas pedal operation. A pet also shouldn’t be allowed to hang its head out the window as it could get whacked by a passing vehicle or tree branch.
• While in the car, keep air circulating to the back seat where the animal is and keep speakers for music tuned to the front, so it doesn’t hurt a pet’s sensitive auditory system.
• Never leave your animal in a parked car with the air conditioning off. The temperature inside the car can rise to lethal levels in a matter of minutes.
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• If you are traveling on a plane, pets under 20 pounds generally are allowed to travel in the main cabin. These spaces are limited, however, so check with the airline to reserve one ahead of time. You may have to put your pet in a designated area for certain times of the flight, but NEVER put your pet in the overhead bin.
• You can help alleviate pressure buildup in your pet’s ears during takeoff by giving it some water — swallowing helps equalize the pressure.
• We do not recommend you allow your animal to be placed in the cargo hold.
• When booking a hotel room, make sure the accommodations you choose are pet-friendly and consider requesting a room on the ground floor by an exit door for convenience.
• Orleans Parish residents who are registered to participate in the city-assisted evacuation plan are allowed to take their pets. Register by calling 311 or visit www.nola.gov/ready for more information.