The worldwide SPCA groups have been lobbying for decades to improve air travel for animals. The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does not simply report people for beating animals or starving them. We also endeavor to improve the treatment of animals that are not actually being mistreated. These pets are like members of our own families so it makes us angry when they endure any discomforts that are avoidable.
There has been some progress in the area of pet-friendly travel, especially among hotel owners. Now it is possible to find hotels which realize that travelers often travel with their pets, not wanting to leave them in dog pounds or with dog sitters or cat sitters at home. A few hotels now have areas outside where the pet can eliminate and areas where one can give the pet some exercise safely. We SPCA members applaud such hotels for their kindness to the four-footed members of our families. Some pet-friendly hotels have special rooms for use by travelers who have their pets with them. The rooms have pet beds inside the rooms and water bowls to quench the thirst of our beloved animals.
Pet air travel, however, is still lagging far behind the hotels in providing for the care and handling of pets that travel. To be fair, I must mention that I have been on a few planes in which the pets are allowed inside the cabin. They are usually inside carry-on cages which fit below the seat of the traveler. These airlines are few and far between, but they are appreciated. I try to choose one of these airlines whenever I take my feline friend on a cat vacation.
I have heard of airlines which make the pets stay in the cargo hold of the plane. They are treated like baggage. Little attention is given by the men who load the cargo holds. Sometimes the animal’s tight, little cage is surrounded by luggage, blocking any light and moving air from reaching the victim inside the cage. If the cargo hold is not air-conditioned, the pet becomes very cold and may die from lack of oxygen in the hold. I am aware of horror stories about precious pets’ cages being run over by the baggage carts or pets being abandoned all night among the luggage that is not claimed.
Pet air travel is becoming more popular. No doubt, this popularity will increase even more in the coming years. The world’s major airlines must focus on the needs of the pets if they intend to keep the faithfulness of their pet-loving customers.
I doubt that there will ever be airlines which cater only to pets and their owners. It would be quite favorable to pet air travel, and there would be people who would choose such airlines. In fact, for some of us who travel with our pets often, I would even suggest frequent flyer programs for pets. On international flights, my cat could accumulate a lot of miles on such a program.
For now, I simply ask major airlines to become more aware of the needs of our flying pets, to treat them with respect.