How can we get 3 pets, 1 with issues, across the country?
September 26, 2010 2:17 PM   Subscribe

How can we get our pets across the country?

Anonymous because our jobs don't know that we're moving. Cross-country = Southern California to Washington, DC.

2 normal kitties - ~8-10 lbs. each (haven't been vaccinated in years - guess I should do that soon, huh?), not friendly enough to ride in 1 carrier.
1 elderly and ill (on tons of drugs) dog with anxiety issues (90 lbs.) Does not sedate well.

We have a toddler. He is an okay traveler, but it is intense.
Vet says that elderly/ill dog should not be driven cross-country. Rip the bandaid off is her argument.
We (or 1 adult and some animals) could drive cross-country, but we'd rather not.

My thought is that 2 adults, toddler and 1 cat fly first. 1 adult flies back and brings 2nd cat and dog. (But we'd have to hire a sitter and it'd be more expensive overall.) Alternatively, have my sister come with us to make 3 adults, 1 toddler, 2 cats, and 1 dog. (But that sounds terrible too!)

My questions:
- Is there a good way to do this? 2 trips versus 1?
- Airlines that are particularly dog friendly? (Assume that we're willing to fly out of any LA-area airport (~2-3 hour drive from home). Flying out of Santa Barbara would be best though.)

Help us!
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Airlines have limitations on how many pets can be in the cabin. has a free guide about traveling with pets. You will have to register on their site to download.
posted by ljshapiro at 2:29 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pet Airways is a pet airline and they fly from LA to Washington DC. Fares start at $99. That might be your best bet for the animals.
posted by kate blank at 2:30 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

A friend just did this and wrote an essay about it:
posted by cyndigo at 2:32 PM on September 26, 2010

At a minimum, I would take two adults, one toddler and two cats on any flight, and put the third adult and the dog on a Pet Airways flight. In other words, my feeling is that cats in good health tolerate this kind of travel well (they hide under a bed for a week but they are fine) whereas with an elderly, sick dog with anxiety issues, I'd want to give him the best chance of survival with the lowest-stress flight, most dog-friendly and the least chance of getting lost as standard checked pet cargo.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Adult1 and toddler goes.

Adult2 sends cats as cargo, Adult1 picks cats up at the airport.

Adult2 flies with dog.
posted by amberwb at 3:43 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

In terms of departure airports, I would put a high priority on finding nonstop flights, especially for the dog who will be travelling as cargo.
posted by metahawk at 3:52 PM on September 26, 2010

Don't make an elderly, unwell dog travel as cargo. Go with Kate Blank's suggestion of Pet Airways. That sounds way more tolerable than being treated as luggage.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:27 PM on September 26, 2010

I fly in and out of Santa Barbara with my (10lb) dog a couple times a year. We always fly American Airlines which is American Eagle in Santa Barbara. How big is the dog? Is he going in cabin or in cargo? Regardless, here is my advice:

- The airport staff in SB isn't 100% on what their pet policy is. I had to spend 20 minutes convincing the counter guy that I did not need to present any vaccination records to fly in the lower 48 with my dog (only if flying to Hawaii or International). He finally asked someone else and then they looked up the policy on AA's website. So get there early.

- If the dog is flying in cabin as well as the cats, you are going to need at least one adult per cabin animal. If the dog is flying cargo, one adult can probably handle it but they may end up being cranky about it.

- You are going to have to carry the (in cabin) animal through the metal detector to get through security. I suggest you practice getting your laptop out, taking off your shoes and jackets and getting the animal out of the carrier quickly and efficiently because there is only one line to get through security and everyone will give you dirty looks.

- You might want to think about going down to LA if the dog is going cargo just because I'm not sure I would 100% trust the tiny commuter airlines with proper handling of my pet and making sure it gets to the right plane in LA. Also, the desk and grounds people in LA know what they are doing a bit more than in SB.

- You will need to call the airline to add the pet to the reservation. I usually book online to avoid the extra "phone fee" and then call a couple days later to add my dog.

- AA's policy is no more than 3 animals in cabin (don't know about cargo) but I do half my flying with my dog at Christmastime and I haven't had a problem yet.

Good Luck!!
posted by magnetsphere at 4:48 PM on September 26, 2010

I would also add that if I had to send my dog cargo I wouldn't fly with him at all. I do not trust them that much. I would strongly consider Pet Airways. At least then you know that someone cares about your dog getting there (since that is their only priority).
posted by magnetsphere at 4:52 PM on September 26, 2010

I would not send a pet as cargo. There have been too many incidents with airlines messing up or things going wrong with the animal by no fault of the airline. I would definitely do Pet Airways if you can afford it, especially for your elderly dog. If the dog can't be driven cross-country, what does the vet suggest? Unless it's small enough to go under the seat, it would have to go in cargo unless you did Pet Airways.
posted by elpea at 5:17 PM on September 26, 2010

I would definitely not send any animal via cargo. Thirding Pet Airways.
posted by bolognius maximus at 5:30 PM on September 26, 2010

At a minimum, I would take two adults, one toddler and two cats on any flight, and put the third adult and the dog on a Pet Airways flight.

It doesn't appear, on the Pet Airways website, that people are eligible passengers (pawsengers). So you'd have to send the dog by himself, and he'd have to meet their criteria, such as being able to stay in a crate without injuring himself or damaging the crate, etc.

If you can, that seems like the best (and coolest) option.
posted by purpletangerine at 6:25 PM on September 26, 2010

I know you're trying to avoid driving, but just in case that plan changes:

My wife and I did a similar cross-country trip from SoCal to NYC in August, albeit with two healthy adult cats and no kids. FWIW, we rented a minivan (our furniture was going separately by truck). We put a large, closed-top litter box in the back, and left space for the cats to roam around in back and between the seats (except the front seats). Drove solid, nearly no stops for sightseeing, 300 miles first day then 800-900 miles on following 3 days. First day, the cats seemed a bit weirded out (nothing major, just meowing and staring out the windows with big eyes). By 3rd day, they were settled pretty well—ate when they wanted, used the litter box while the car was moving, etc.

If you do end up using this approach, beware that on the road, you will need to find pet-friendly hotels. If you have an iphone or droid phone, this is easy enough to do while the other person is driving, which is better than making reservations ahead of time because it makes it possible to dynamically adjust your sleep stop location. I used TripAdvisor and Google maps. Don't forget to bring extra cat litter, plastic bags, and a cat litter scoop—you won't want to flush clumped cat litter down the toilet, so will need a way to package it up and put it in the trash.

Also plan on doing a very thorough cleaning of the vehicle before you turn it in, if it's a rental. (One of our cats is a long-hair and oh. my. god. does she shed a lot.) If the rental agents spot any pet hair, they will bring up things like pet allergies for the next customer and use it as a reason to charge you *a lot* for a serious cleaning.

Oh, and you might want to pack some emergency chocolate (for the humans, not the cats).
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:08 PM on September 26, 2010

I appreciate the not wanting to drive but reading this, my first thought was "Rent a mini van and drive." I've done NYC-Seattle in 3 days with two drivers. You can drive a lot of hours in a day with two drivers making only necessary stops. Even with your toddler, a minivan that's rented has more space, has the 'new car' coolness, get one with the bells & whistles so they can watch movies, make them run around at the rest areas where are you are stopping with the dog.

I do not understand what your vet is saying about your dog. It would of course depend on how well your dog does in a car, but to me, a pet being with their people all the time seems far less stressful than the hassle and trauma of flying cargo. There is also no way I would ever fly my dog commercial cargo under any circumstances given the horror stories.

All Motel 6 - the entire chain - is pet friendly. You get the toddler into the room with one adult, and then the other adult unloads pets and essential luggage. The cardboard litter boxes are lifesavers.
posted by micawber at 7:21 PM on September 26, 2010

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