Practical Considerations When the Fur Flies: Flying with Pets in Business Aviation
This is a post by guest author Carol Martin of Sit ‘n’ Stay Global, LLC. Carol was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her expertise as a flight attendant with a specialization in animal safety and care as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
It can be almost comical to watch. Crew members accustomed to looking over trip sheets with amazing passenger manifests, including rock stars and heads of state, go weak in the knees when they see it: “Medium Dog.” Now what to do? What documents will we need for them? Can they get off the aircraft at the tech stop? What if they have to “go” during an eight-hour leg? Should they eat or drink? How do I keep them contained??? Let’s look at some of the most common questions that arise with a pet passenger on board.
1. Travel Documents
In many countries, pets have specific entry requirements and need documents to prove they have met them. The travel schemes can get rather complicated and change frequently, so never assume that since you have been to a location before, you know the routine. Many countries require testing and inoculations months before travel, so check the requirements before you assure your client that their pet will be able to join them on the trip. Each country lists its requirements, usually under its department of agriculture. A good Web site to find quick information and forms you will need for most countries is:
2. Tech Stops
Tech stops are the same as any other arrival in another country. If those paws touch the ground, you’d better have every “t” crossed and “i” dotted. No exceptions. If they say no pets allowed to deplane, they mean it. You risk having that pet impounded or destroyed if you go for a quick potty break. Have all documents in place for each tech stop (see above), or make provisions for on-board relief (see below) for your pet passenger.
3. On-board Relief
Clients don’t just bring their pets with them on two-hour flights to go skiing; they take them on 10-hour legs everywhere. It is up to you to figure out how that pet is going to relieve itself in-flight. Thankfully, the camping industry has made this easy if you just do a little advance planning. You’ll need the following items to make sure this is a neat and clean process:
- Puppy Piddle Pads
- Wag Bags (camping toilet in a bag waste kit)*
- Puppy Training Pheromone Spray
*Wag Bags are toilet-in-a-bag waste kits with a powder in each bag that converts waste to odorless biodegradable gel that may be disposed of in ordinary trash.
When it is time for an animal to relieve itself in flight or at a tech stop where it cannot leave the aircraft, select a spot that seems suitable (baggage, lav) and lay down two layers of piddle pads. When dealing with male dogs, tape pads up on the wall to protect the interior. Allow the pet to relieve itself in the designated area. If the pet will not relax and go, there are puppy training pheromone sprays you can spray on the area that signal this is ok.
After the deed is done, wrap up the piddle pads and throw them in the Wag Bag. This bag is re-sealable and may be used again. When through with it, dispose it in the trash with no lingering odor in cabin and no mess.
4. Fresh Air
While we are on the subject of odor in the cabin… sometimes you do want to clear the air quickly. Opening air vents will help, but a great tip to really get rid of odors fast is to dampen a scented hot towel and hold it up to an open air vent. This will immediately fill the cabin with a fresh scent and replace the odor you are trying to avoid.
5. Dog Is My Co-Pilot
There are no regulations in General Aviation (GA) specifying how a pet is to be secured in the cabin. Make no mistake about it: Clients who bring their pets on board will be grateful if you look out for their safety. If that’s not enough incentive for you, consider severe turbulence or a rapid descent, when an unsecured Great Dane could become your Co-Pilot after he sails through the cabin and into the cockpit. That is dangerous for everybody. If you know you will have a pet on board, find out if the client has a means of securing that pet in the cabin. If not, find out the size of the pet and have an option ready for everyone’s safety. One pet safety harness that has been tested by the DOT is the Roadie Ruff Rider, and Kurgo makes another effective one. Remember that any crates brought on board are useless unless they are secured to the aircraft itself.
I covered this topic in more depth in a previous article, In-Flight Safety When the Fur Flies – Pet Safety and Business Aviation.
6. Catering 101
Pets are a lot like people in this regard. They really shouldn’t eat heavy meals. They aren’t going to starve on this flight; they just need light things to keep them going. Avoid grains and high-fiber items (broccoli, etc.) so you don’t have to re-visit #4 above… Leave small amounts of water out to prevent spilling and avoid overconsumption. Pets are usually not too interested in eating on flights. Be sure to keep items that are dangerous if consumed by pets out of their grazing range. Bowls of chocolates, candy, sugarless gum, and the like will all make an animal sick. If you have fresh flowers on board, place them where pets cannot snack on them when they get bored.
It is easy to stock your aircraft with the items mentioned above and feel confident each time a pet joins you for a trip. Be sure to load a Pet First Aid app on your tablet as well, in case of a medical emergency. PetTech has created a very comprehensive resource.
The nicest thing about traveling with pets is that even the smallest of efforts will be greatly appreciated. People who travel with their pets think of them as family and will notice your extra care. And the pets? They are always grateful!
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.