Traveling with Pets

travel with pets

Here's what the law says about Fido and your rights.

There's no love like the love between a pet and its owner. So it's natural for you to want to bring your pet along during the summer travel season. That unconditional love is incomparable, which is why it can be upsetting when someone else doesn't receive our furry or feathered family members with the same affection as we do, whether it's a vacation rental property owner, a rental car company, an airline or a hotel.  

The hard truth is when it comes to traveling with pets, businesses in the travel industry have to strike a balance between avoiding liability and providing customer service. We're seeing more and more stories in the news about kerfuffle related to people traveling with their furry friends. And while some hoteliers may be howling and airlines may be airing their grievances, as a pet owner, you are best served by simply knowing your rights and responsibilities. 

Your rights and responsibilities related to your furry friends

So what are your rights to traveling with your pets? Here's what you should know. 

Service animals

Assistance animals, or trained service animals, have a broad set of rights to public access, and guests cannot be discriminated against based on having a service animal that assists owners with physical or psychiatric disabilities. Emotional support animals are a different beast entirely. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures service animals trained to perform tasks that benefit someone with a disability can travel and stay with their owner. An essential distinction: although emotional support animals do have protections against discrimination, emotional support animals are not protected by the ADA, and neither are pets.

The following are regulations related specifically to animals not covered by the ADA. 

Flying with Fluffy

Taking your pet on a plane is nothing to be taken lightly. And regulations are different for every airline; some don't even allow pets to fly at all, and some allow it only during certain times of the year. For those that allow pets, there are several requirements in place, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Here are some of the main requirements.

  • Your pet must be weaned and at least eight weeks old.
  • While service animals do not need to be in a carrier or cage, airlines typically require it for pets. Cages must meet standards related to their size, design, and strength, as well as ventilation. Your airline can provide specifics. 
  • There are food and water-related requirements, depending on the age of the animal and the length of travel.
  • Animals cannot be exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit without prior approval from your veterinarian.
  • Be sure to reserve your pet's space on the flight in advance and familiarize yourself with the airline's policies related to your pet. 
  • Write your name and contact information on your pet's kennel, cage or carrier, as well as your destination address. This is important whether your pet and its carrying case are going in the cargo hold or is riding under the seat in front of you. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration lets individual airlines determine their policies related to whether pets may travel in the passenger cabin, limits on types of pets, limits on the number of pets per flight, and other requirements. Check with your airline to understand their policies before you fly. 
  • Airlines typically have their own requirements for traveling with pets, including health certificates and shots, depending on your destination. If flying overseas, this is particularly important as your destination may have special requirements. It is likely worth your while to schedule a visit with a licensed veterinarian within ten days of travel. Some countries may even require microchipping for your pet and/or quarantine. Know the laws for your destination(s).
  • If importing an animal to the United States, be sure to research whether that type of animal is allowed to be brought into the country and what paperwork, vaccinations, and permits are required. 

If you feel your animal was mistreated by airline personnel, you may wish to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Staying with Sugar

It's increasingly more common for hotels and vacation rentals to allow guests to stay on their properties with their pets, but that's not always the case. While the ADA ensures service animals must always be allowed, pets and emotional support animals do not have the same protections. 

Policies vary widely between vacation rental companies, hotels, campgrounds and other types of stays. Many have limits on the size and number of pets you may bring, as well as limits on breeds. You may also be required to agree that your pet will not be left alone on the property and that you'll clean up after your pet. 

Extra fees for pets are common and legal. As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to understand and follow the pet policy as stated by your lodging provider. And if your pet harms someone or damages property, it's important to know that you may be held liable, so it's essential to know your pet and any behavioral issues they may have.

Driving with Daisy

Whether you're renting a car or driving your own vehicle, there are some laws related to taking Rover on the road. Here are some things to think about. 

  • Some car rental companies allow pets; others do not. Again, policies differ from company to company, so it's vital to know your rental company's rules and requirements. Any damage done by pets will typically fall to the owner to reconcile. If bringing your pet, be sure to alert the rental company beforehand. 
  • Special cleaning, detailing, or other pet fees may apply for rental vehicles. 
  • Rideshare services typically let their drivers decide if a pet or emotional support animal is allowed in the vehicle. Some rideshare services have a special offering for people with pets who need a ride. Service animals must be allowed to ride by law.
  • If you are driving with your pet, it's important to know your requirements under the law where you are driving. Some states prohibit driving with your pet on your lap, and there may be requirements related to restraining your pet while in your vehicle. 
Traveling with Tabby? Know the law. 

Whether you have a hairless cat, a reptile, a bird or a Burmese mountain dog, it can be tempting to bring your pets with you when you travel. Knowing the laws at your destination and the requirements along the way can ensure a safe, relaxing journey for all of you. 

For more information about your consumer rights in Wisconsin, call Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC, at 608-784-5678.

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