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8:21 PM   May 05, 2015
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Pets on the Move

Retailers serve as valuable sources of information for owners looking to move their pets cross-country.
By Lori Luechtefeld

Birds are more comfortable traveling in small carriers with some type of a perch. Courtesy of Crystal Flight
Moving across the country is never easy. Doing so with a pet only adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult process. When searching for help, pet owners are likely to turn to their trusted local pet retailers for guidance in navigating this stressful task. Obviously, pet retailers offer a wide array of products designed to ease the burden of moving with a pet. Their most valuable offering to customers, however, is education.

Dogs and Cats Take Flight
When it comes to moving across the country with a dog or cat, advance planning is vital to ensure a safe and stress-free trip. Mike Foster, product manager for containment at pet-product manufacturer Petmate in Arlington, Texas, says the first question retailers need to ask their customers is whether they will be driving or flying with their pets, as that will determine the types of products offered up for evaluation.

If owners are planning to fly with their pets, they will need a pet carrier that conforms to pet-travel regulations. Within the USA, these requirements are established and enforced by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulates international flights. A carrier label should state whether it is air-travel approved, Foster says.

“A lot of carriers say they are ‘airline approved.’ However, airlines don’t approve carriers, USDA and IATA do,” he notes.

Foster says because restrictions and requirements for flying with pets can vary significantly by airline, retailers should tell their customers to call ahead before showing up at the airport.

“It can be incredibly frustrating to get to the airport and have to buy a carrier from the airline because your carrier doesn’t meet their requirements,” Foster explains.

Brad White, president of Marshfield Hills, Mass.-based Midnight Pass, a manufacturer of pet-travel and -lifestyle products, agrees advance planning is essential to safe airline travel with pets.

“Veterinarians used to recommended tranquilizers for pets before they flew,” he says. “But they don’t do so now because dogs need to be able to pant while traveling. Instead, we recommend thorough exercise before traveling, which will help tucker the pet out and make sure they’ve done their business,” White adds.

By Land

Traveling with pets is now safer and easier, thanks to innovative products and services. Courtesy of Solvit Products
If pet owners plan to drive their dog or cat cross-country, the burden of meeting a third party’s containment restrictions is lifted—but the need to plan is not.

“We recommend that pets be contained while in a vehicle, and they should be introduced to the travel carrier before going on a long trip,” Foster says.

For multi-day road trips, Foster also suggests pet owners call ahead to ensure they know where pet-friendly hotels are along the way.
White agrees dogs and cats need to be contained in cars, and adds that, whenever possible, pets should be confined to the backseat or cargo areas.

“We don’t recommend booster seats in the front because an airbag will kill a pet if it goes off,” he states.

For larger dogs that won’t fit in a carrier, he recommends backseat gates or harnesses designed to serve as seatbelts for dogs.

Patrick Hoffman, president of Texas-based Solvit Products, which produces a variety of pet-travel items, also supports harness and gate use, particularly in light of the changing attitudes of pet owners toward their pets.

“Many owners who travel with their pets want them to enjoy the trip as well,” he says. “As opposed to crating their pets on trips, many pet owners want their dogs to be able to get fresh air, see out the window and even move around a bit. Harness or barrier-net systems allow for this.”

The systems, Hoffman notes, also offer a safe and secure form of confinement.

“Harnesses and barriers protect both the driver—no loose-dog distractions—and the dog in the case of a sudden stop,” he explains “In addition, the systems can prevent an unplanned adventure from happening during rest stops.”

Hoffman also notes the issue of pet containment in vehicles is gaining government attention at several levels, thanks in part to the San Diego-based organization Bark BuckleUp. So far, at least one state (Massachusetts) is considering legislation to enforce the use of pet restraints in a moving vehicle.

There are also myriad travel accessories, such as portable travel bowls and water bottles, which retailers can recommend to their customers, Foster says. Retailers should also remind their customers to keep collars and up-to-date ID tags on their pets while traveling, in case a pet should become lost, he adds.

For pets that become stressed by travel, Foster recommends that owners consider taking along calming products, such as all-natural pheromones.

“There’s even music that’s designed to calm pets when they’re traveling or in some other stressful situation, such as during a storm,” Foster explains.

Moving with Birds

Pet Transport Services

Many services specialize in transporting pets long (and short) distances. Here’s a sampling of websites that can help customers on the move.

In addition to dogs and cats, other pets present their own complexities when moving cross-country. Paul Lewis, owner of the retail store Birds Unlimited in Webster, N.Y., notes there are professional services that specialize in transporting pets safely. It’s an option retailers should consider mentioning to customers, he says.

Since offerings are diverse, it is useful to talk to customers about how smoothly things have gone with the services they have used. Lewis says a customer recently hired We Move Pets LLC (based in Bryan, Texas) to transport a pet bird cross-country, and they said the move went off without a hitch.

When it comes to transporting birds by air, Lewis thinks owners may be surprised to learn their pets travel better than expected, as long as they prepare accordingly.

“If you’re flying with a bird, they’ll want to get the most direct flights possible,” he says. “And depending on the destination, they should check with the airline to see if a health certificate is needed.”

Owners will also need to select an air-travel-approved cage. Product-wise, whether traveling by air or land, Lewis says birds should be put in transport carriers that are smaller than their regular cages—the carriers should have perches.

“Instead of water, owners should put some fruits and vegetables in the cage,” he says. “Birds can get their needed water from those.”

Herps in Transit
When moving long distances with herps, Bruce Delles, CEO and owner of reptile-specialty store Twin Cities Reptiles in St. Paul, Minn., notes many airlines impose steep restrictions. Owners may want to entrust their pets to a verified shipper who is approved to package and ship reptiles and amphibians cross-country, he says. Retailers can therefore provide a valuable service to pet owners by becoming a verified shipper through FedEx or another service.

Delles says if owners plan to drive with reptiles or amphibians, they need to take great care to control temperatures while traveling.

“Reptiles and amphibians should be put in the smallest containers possible; they’ll feel secure while traveling and there is less room to control,” he explains. “Owners need to put thermometers in the tanks to ensure the temperature remains safe.”

Small-mammal Transport
Marvin Hughes, owner of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Rainbow Pets, a pet and pet-supply store, says the way in which owners transport small mammals long distance depends heavily on the type of animal. When flying, as with any pet, owners should contact their airlines to inquire about restrictions. Most small mammals, he notes, can be put in small plastic keepers, which can then be boxed in cardboard and labeled as live animals. For those worried about temperature variance, Hughes recommends small Styrofoam containers. However, not all small mammals are so easy, he notes.

“With chinchillas, you almost have to take them in the car,” he says. “They get extremely nervous when they travel as air freight, and many of them don’t do very well.”

Fish: To Move or Not to Move
Unlike other pets, fish owners are much less likely to want to take their pets on a cross-country move with them, says Patrick Donston, owner of Absolutely Fish, which is located in Clifton, N.J. The difficulty of managing the move itself, coupled with the need to set up a tank immediately at the final destination, is enough to dissuade many fish owners. Thus, many retailers will offer to buy fish back from owners.

However, Donston notes, there is the occasional fish owner whose bond with his or her fish is too strong to be broken by a long-distance move. These are often koi owners or owners of other long-lifespan fish.

“If owners are going on an east to west coast drive, you’re talking days,” he says. “They can’t take the fish in the car. They need to be shipped.”

As with herps, some retailers like Donston opt to become verified shippers. Shipping fish requires proper oxygenation and meticulous packaging in Styrofoam and then cardboard boxes, Donston explains. Even then, the clock is ticking.

“We package fish to reasonably stay in there for 36 hours,” he says. “They may be able to stay up to 48 hours, but that’s really pushing the threshold. I don’t like getting much past 24 to 30 hours.”

Shipping live coral, Donston says, requires even greater care.

“Live coral has a lower time threshold,” he says. “And if it’s not packaged properly, it will roll around and crack.”

Enlisting the help of a qualified professional is therefore necessary. <HOME>

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