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How to Move Your Pets

Moving with your pet All pets require special attention and consideration when moving, and the essential ingredient to your pet's stress-free move is preplanning. The following information outlines the points to consider when relocating with your pet.

Before You Move

Contact the local authorities requesting the pet laws and regulations of your destination. If you have a wolf, monkey, big cat, or any other large exotic animal, you will likely need a special permit to keep it. "Leash Laws" are common, licensing may be necessary, and the number of pets per household may be limited. Many communities have zoning laws that prohibit you from keeping pets such as goats, pigs and chickens in residential areas. Also, cats, dogs, aquariums and e xotic pets (iguanas, venomous snakes, tarantulas, ferrets, etc.) may not be allowed in apartment or condo complexes. Make sure your lease allows them on the premises before you move in.

Once you are sure your pet will be allowed in your new community and/or complex, request your pet's health records from your veterinarian. This information will help your new veterinarian provide better care for your pet. Before your departure, make sure you have a recent photograph of your pet (in case the animal is lost), and the proper pet documents, such as a health certificate, any necessary permits and pet identification. Whether you are traveling by air or car, any pet that can wear a collar should have one on, with an ID tag secured to it. Birds may be identified by leg bands. The ID tag should include the pet's name, your name, and the destination address. In addition to ID, most states require dogs, cats and some exotic animals to have a rabies tag on their collars. Check with your veterinarian or animal-control agency.

Choosing a Moving Method

Now you are ready to relocate your pet but must decide how to do it. You can hire a professional pet-moving service to transport your four-legged family member or do it yourself. Movers are not permitted to transport pets, nor are buses or trains (Seeing Eye dogs are the exception for the latter two). If your pet requires special handling when moving, you may consider using a professional pet service that can take care of everything for you.

The Pet Carrier

The importance of a sturdy, comfortable carrier for your pet cannot be overemphasized. A carrier should be large enough for the pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down. It must have adequate cross-ventilation and a leak-proof bottom with layers of absorbent lining. It should have a secure closing mechanism on the door, but do not lock the kennel. Federal regulations require that your pet be accessible in the event of an emergency.

Most airlines have pet carriers available for purchase with advance notice (48 hours or more). These kennels meet all legal requirements for pet transportation. Pet stores also may have acceptable carriers for sale. Birds must be placed in durable pet carriers other than conventional bird cages.

Get your pet accustomed to the carrier several days before a flight or car ride by using it as a bed. Placing a favorite toy or blanket inside will make your pet feel more secure.Most airlines accept dogs, cats, birds and fish in air freight.

By Air

If you plan to fly your pet to its new home, first confirm that the airline allows animals. If it does, give notice when you book your flight that your pet will be traveling with you. Some airlines allow pets inside the cabin (first-come, first-served basis) if the pet is odorless, inoffensive, and kept in a government-approved container small enough to fit under the seat. Properly harnessed Seeing Eye dogs may sit at the owner's feet.

Pets not accompanied by the owner, or too large to travel inside the cabin, must travel air freight. Most airlines accept dogs, cats, birds and fish in air freight. But if you have a venomous snake or other exotic pet, it may not be allowed on the plane.

Minimize your pet's stress by avoiding through-checking and plane changes. Moving your pet from one plane to another adds extra work, cost and stress to your pet's relocation. Remember to have all the proper documents and a recent photo of your pet handy. You may need to bring your pet to freight loading two or more hours before departure. Mark the container with the animal's name and note if it bites. Write the words "FRAGILE. LIVE ANIMAL" and "THIS SIDE UP" clearly on the outside of the container.Fish should be packed in plastic containers equipped with battery operated aerators and placed in strong boxes.

For your pet's welfare and comfort on any flight, accompanied or not, be sure to:

  1. Feed your pet a light meal five to six hours before flight time; but, do not give it water two hours before take-off, except on very hot days. Do not feed fish for two to three days before shipping.

  2. Exercise your pet (on a leash) at the airport and administer any required medications. After placing your pet in the carrier, secure the closing mechanism and fasten the leash to the outside of the container.

  3. Turtles - the easiest pet to transport - can be mailed overnight. Pack them in well-cushioned Styrofoam boxes with air holes and lined with soft grass or leaves. The box should not be so tight that the turtle cannot extend its legs or head. Write "FRAGILE. LIVE ANIMAL" and "THIS SIDE UP" on the box. Keep the surroundings moist, but not wet, by dampening a cloth and placing it inside the container.

  4. Fish - should be packed in plastic containers equipped with battery operated aerators and placed in strong boxes.

Pets must be picked up from the airport within a reasonable time (usually within 24 hours of arrival). If not, they will either be returned to point of origin or placed in a kennel at the owner's expense.

Be aware that airlines may refuse to transport a pet if:

  • It cannot be shipped within a 24-hour period,
  • The ground temperature is below 45°F or above 85°F at either origin or destination,
  • It is not in a government-approved container or without proper identification and certificates,
  • The pet has been sedated, unless the drug name, dosage and how it was administered is noted on the carrier.

By Car

Car travel is the most common means of pet transportation. It provides a feeling of security for your pet (as well as for you), and it is less expensive. Again, advance planning is essential. Traveling with your pet can be a pleasant experience when you follow certain guidelines.

If your pet is not used to car travel, take it on short rides before the trip to help accustom it to the motion of the car. If your pet is prone to motion sickness, consult your veterinarian about medication to reduce or eliminate the symptoms.

Do not feed or water your pet for a few hours before you leave. After you are on the road, feed only once daily. Take a supply of water from home; different water on the road can cause upset stomachs for pets. Make frequent stops to water and exercise your pet, and keep your pet on a leash for its protection - and yours.

While riding in the car, do not let your pet hang out the window. Dirt and insects can fly into its eyes, causing irritation and infection. Keep power-windows locked to prevent your pet - especially cats - from lowering the window and jumping out. If your car is not equipped with air conditioning, leave the windows cracked 1" to 1 1/2". Pets need plenty of air, especially when it is hot, or when the animal is prone to motion sickness.

Small animals, such as gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. A good guide is your own comfort zone; if you are hot or cold, chances are your small pet will be, too.

Try not to leave your pet in the car alone. If it is unavoidable, lock the car doors, crack windows for cross-ventilation, and leave water with your pet. Check on your pet frequently if you must leave it alone for very long.

Remove the water and food dishes of birds and other small caged animals to avoid messy spills while the car is moving. Feed and water these pets at stops along the way. Keep your bird's cage covered to help calm it. If you are transporting fish in plastic bags, do not put them in direct sunlight or cold drafts.

Hotel Stays

If you anticipate overnight stops, contact several lodgings along your route and confirm your pet will be admitted. No pet should be left in the car overnight. Be sure to do your research in advance to find hotels on your route that accept pets. Snakes should be put into the bathtub and allowed to soak for about an hour once you have checked in.

If you leave your pet alone in a motel room, notify the management and hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.

When staying overnight on the road, be sure to have with you:

  • An ample supply of food, fresh water from home, and a dish for each pet,
  • A leash and grooming brush,
  • Medications,
  • Extra towels and newspaper,
  • A favorite toy or blanket,
  • Room deodorizer for hotel rooms.

Arriving At Your New Home

Like people, pets need time to become accustomed to a new house and new faces. Using your pet's favorite food bowl, bedding and toys will aid greatly in getting your pet to feel right at home. Once you and your family are settled in, locate a veterinarian. Ask your previous veterinarian for a recommendation before you move, or you can contact the local Humane Society for the names of veterinarians in your area.

If your pet will have free-roam of your new home, let the animal come out of its cage when it is ready by leaving the door open.

General Reminders

Keep your pet's routine as regular as possible during the pre-moving stages and the move itself. If you normally feed, exercise, or play with your pet at certain times, continue to do so. During the final crunch of moving, you may find it is better if your pet stays at a friend's home or kennel. This may help reduce the chances of it getting upset and running away, or hiding in one of the moving boxes, as cats are prone to do.

Article courtesy of Atlas Van Lines, a moving company specializing in door-to-door relocation anywhere in the world.




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