Hoggle needs your help!
November 10, 2007 3:58 PM   Subscribe

How can we get my pug on our flight so he can spend Xmas with us on the East Coast?

So, my girlfriend and I have thoroughly read through American Airlines' policy on flying with dogs. Putting our pug in a kennel in cargo is not an option. Our little brachycephalic friend would either freeze or suffocate back there. So he needs to be in the cabin with us. He meets the weight requirement of being 20 lbs or less, but when we got back from PetSmart with the largest dog tote we could find that still was admissible according to American Airlines' pet rules page: ( http://www.aa.com/aa/i18nForward.do?p=/travelInformation/specialAssistance/travelingWithPets.jsp), our pug didn't fit comfortably. And he certainly wasn't able to turn around.

Is there any way we can get our delightful pug, Hoggle, home from Los Angeles to Newark, NJ on the plane with us? One of our friends mentioned that if your dog is registered as a thereputic animal there isn't an airline around that can deny him passage on their flights? Is this true?

Any help on the subject would be much appreciated.

posted by AsRuinsAreToRome to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From AA's website:

Emotional support service animals are service animals that provide emotional support to an individual with a mental health-related disability. Per the Department of Transportation, we require appropriate documentation to permit emotional support animals to travel in the passenger cabin.

Advance notice is strongly recommended to ensure all paperwork is in order. Specifically, we require a letter on letterhead from a mental health care professional (physician or psychologist) stating the following:

* that the passenger has a mental health-related disability
* a mental health-related disability (any individual who has a mental impairment that, on a permanent or temporary basis, substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment)
* major life activities (functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and walking)
* that the person providing the documentation is a licensed mental health care professional or physician
* that the passenger is under his or her professional care for the mental health related disability for which the passenger needs an emotional support animal
* and that having the animal travel with the passenger is necessary to the passenger's mental health and/or treatment or to assist the passenger with his or her mental health-related disability

Doesn't look like you'll be able to fudge your way into that exception. I see plenty of advice on checking Pugs as cargo online, doesn't seem to be quite the death blow you've imagined, if you properly prepare him for it.

Or you could always buy him a seat and stick him in a baby carrier...
posted by bizwank at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2007

Have you asked the airline if you can buy your dog a ticket and use the seat for it?
posted by JayRwv at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2007

oops.. on preview.. what biswank said.
posted by JayRwv at 4:15 PM on November 10, 2007

try another airline.
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 4:18 PM on November 10, 2007

I fly with my dog (chihuahua) from AZ/CA to the east coast all the time. The only time she's ever in her carrier is during take off and landing- the rest of the time she's snuggled up comfortably in my lap. Depending how well behaved Hoggle is, I don't see why this wouldn't be an option for him.

I've done this at least 10 times, and never have I been asked (by either a fellow passenger or a flight attendant) to put her back in the carrier. But, of course- YMMV.
posted by MiaWallace at 4:19 PM on November 10, 2007

Forgot to include two points:

* Yes, my experience does include flights on AA.
* The rules SAY the pet must remain in the carrier, but again... I've never encountered a problem.
posted by MiaWallace at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2007

Please don't try to con Hoggle's way onto the flight. Yes, maybe you can pull it off, but at least some of the airline staff are going to know that you're putting one over on them. This sort of thing makes it much harder for people who have legitimate, non-traditional service dogs.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 4:36 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

if he can't make it in the cargo hold should he really be traveling? I can see being able to get a smaller dog on with a small carrier but a pug is a big bigger than a Chihuahua. Full disclosure I have a pug and chihuahua. Hope you get him there - PUGS RULE!
posted by roderashe at 4:39 PM on November 10, 2007

Do not try to scam your way into registering your pet as a therapeutic animal. Even if you are successful, you are doing a grave disservice to people for whom that is actually the case.

Get one of these soft-sided carriers. He should certainly fit in the largest size comfortably.

Also, consider getting some doggie valium from your vet. Pets travel a hell of a lot more easily when they're slightly sedated, and even if Hoggle can't turn around easily in the carrier, he won't care if he's half-asleep for the entire 6 hours.
posted by dersins at 4:40 PM on November 10, 2007

Seconding what dersins said. Soft carriers are a good thing. Definitely don't put him in cargo.
posted by bolognius maximus at 4:51 PM on November 10, 2007

Third the soft-sided carriers—the largest Sherpa traveler should fit Hoggle just fine, and it will squish just enough to let him turn around and also to fit under the forward seat for take off and landing, which is where it should be during those times. I wouldn't take him out of his bag during the flight, but I've never had a fellow passenger or flight attendant complain if I had my dog bag on my lap during the flight with the top unzipped so my dog Jarvis could stick his head out.

Doggie valium might not be the best thing for a flat faced dog because they have trouble breathing at altitudes. You could stick your hand in the carrier and pet him during take off and landing to reassure him, or offer him some treats during then so he can chew and swallow to equalize the air pressure in his airs just like some humans use chewing gum for. Have fun flying with Hoggle!
posted by lia at 5:17 PM on November 10, 2007

Because you said "freeze or suffocate": The cargo hold in which pets would travel is heated and pressurized.
posted by mendel at 5:18 PM on November 10, 2007

The cargo hold in which pets would travel is heated and pressurized.

Yes, but changes in temperature and pressure can happen during flight, and no one would be able or inclined to go into the hold to get your pet, not to mention reassure your pet during the freakiness of take off and landing. If you can bring your dog in the cabin, do it!
posted by lia at 5:21 PM on November 10, 2007

I take you do not have status on AA that would allow you to call their AAdvantage service desk? they might be able to help you find your way through the regulations but don't bother if you're not at least gold status.

I would recommend using jet blue over american airlines in such a case. this is purely subjective but the bar to making an exception and letting something close to the company policies slide is much higher there. those guys are just plain nicer.

(I say this as someone who has platinum status on AA and still is avoiding them now when B6 flies to the same location.)
posted by krautland at 5:39 PM on November 10, 2007

The cargo hold in which pets would travel is heated and pressurized.

Pugs and other brachycephalic animals sometimes have trouble breathing at altitude. The cargo hold is significantly less safe for pugs than for other dogs.

He won't freeze, though.
posted by toxic at 5:45 PM on November 10, 2007

I just flew with my 13 lb. cat. We got the large Sherpa carrier as well and while it was a snug fit and he couldn't fully stand up, he just curled up in the carrier the whole time. He was able to turn around, though.

We took him on Virgin. I haven't traveled with a pet on AA but I have seen several small dogs during my frequent travels with them. Almost all of them have stayed in the carriers the whole trip, though I have seen an occasional service dog out of a carrier. They did, however, strap the service dog into the seat for takeoff and landing. (Not that I'm suggesting you should fake out the service animal thing - I agree that it's a bad idea to do that.)
posted by bedhead at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Second krautland's suggestion of travelling with JetBlue over AA, though that would take you from Los Angeles to JFK instead of to Newark. I've flown JetBlue cross-country with my dog, and a good friend flies them with his dog cross-country multiple times a year, they're just so much nicer to people in general and people with pets particularly than any other airline.
posted by lia at 7:42 PM on November 10, 2007

I fly with my Pug from Boston to San Francisco on a regular basis with me in the cabin, and he does fine (as long as he can poke his head out of the carrier to see what's going on). He weights about 19 pounds, but he fits easily into the carrier I use and has plenty of room. I think my carrier is one of the Sherpas that someone linked to earlier. He can turn around in it if he needs to (it;s a squeeze, but he can) and the carrier fits under the seat in front of me. Doesn't leave much leg room for me, but it works.

All I have to do with United is to call in advance and let them know I'm bringing the hound with me (they only allow 1 or 2 per flight, I think), then check in at the airport, give them $85 and his health certificate, and we're good to go. My pug Julius does, not, regrettably, get any frequent flyer miles.

I leave him in the carrier for the flight; I did try and take him out once (on an empty flight; I thought he might like to stretch out in an empty row), but was asked by the attendant to put him back in; I guess they were worried he would sneak into the cockpit and pee on the pilot or something.
posted by baggers at 9:08 PM on November 10, 2007

I've flown with my French Bulldogs using the Sherpa bags with no problems. They have never once made me demonstrate that the dog could 'turn around' (they could, it would just distort the bag in doing so). Yes, you have to pay the $50ish cabin fee, but the Sherpa bags fit under the seat (required during landing and takeoff) but the rest of the time, I just had the dog on my lap (in the bag but with the top unzipped).

If you think Hoggle might be anxious, you can give him some Benadryl (10mg for under 30lbs). If he gets car/airsick, you can give him 1/2 a OTC Dramamine tablet. If he continues to vomit, you can repeat with the other half of the tablet 30-60 minutes later.

Just a heads up, most airlines require advanced notice that you plan on having a 'cabin animal' with you since they limit the number on board ( I think they only permit something like 2 or 3 per flight). So, if you plan on bringing Hoggle, the sooner you determine you're going to do it, the sooner you should give AA a shout.

Good luck!
posted by dancinglamb at 9:55 PM on November 10, 2007

Definitely get the Sherpa, you can find it at Petsmart. We've flown with our pug in the cabin several times (she's about 13 pounds) and she has plenty of room to turn around. She just curls up and sleeps for the entire flight. I wish I could do that.
posted by subclub at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2007

Good for you for not putting the dog in cargo. Bad things happen!
posted by radioamy at 5:14 PM on November 11, 2007

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