Thanks to specialized travel agents, it's not just the purse-sized pets that get to go on holiday.
But getting these jet-setting pets from place to place can be stressful (for both you and Fido). Enter the non-profit International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA): an agency that helps pet owners find a reputable shipper and understand the live-animal regulations insisted upon by the International Air Transport Association. To meet the often-updated regulations, major air hubs, such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Toronto, have dedicated pet-care facilities.
Air Canada, which transports more than 10,000 animals a year, maintains the Pet Stop at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Trained staff will feed, water and shelter their charges before transporting them in climate-controlled vehicles to their flight. Once on board, pets are kept warm and separate from other cargo in the hold.
Kyle Freeman, president of Toronto-based PetRelocate, says there are many challenges in travelling with and/or relocating pets, ranging from customs, IATA regulations and airline embargo periods to the care available en route. Why would anyone bother, especially with cargo fees starting at about $400 for small animals on a Canada–U.S. flight?
"People who don't have pets often have difficulty understanding the relationship pet owners have with their pets. They're family," Freeman says. "For domestic flights you can do it yourself; there's not much paperwork. But flying into the U.S. there are so many regulations." That's where a service such as his makes sense and can prevent having a pet turned away for improper documentation.
Haligonian Ann Hudson used PetsGo to bring her beloved Layla, a rescued Arabian mau cat, from Dubai (where the family had been living on a work assignment) to Halifax. "The trip from Dubai was expensive," says Hudson, "but we were moving back home, and she is part of the family, so we were happy to pay what it took to get her here."
Hudson was so happy that she used the service again to take Layla to Florida for her family's six-month vacation. "If you are leaving the country for an extended period of time, your pet will be much happier to be with you. Cats and dogs are social animals," she says, and leaving them home alone "would be much more damaging than being in a crate travelling for a few hours."
Last year, Rhonda Howard of Halifax had to relocate Fogo, a 28-pound miniature golden doodle named for his owner's childhood island home, to Doha, Qatar. She was worried because Fogo "is a terrible flier, even for short flights, which he has taken often, between Halifax and St. John's."
Since Fogo had to fly from Halifax to Montreal, then stay overnight in Amsterdam before flying to Doha, PetsGo made life easier for both Fogo and Howard. "He was the least stressed we had ever seen him. He showed up at our house happy and normal," she says. "We were delighted at the seamless trip our Fogo had."
And the skies are not just filled with globetrotting dogs and cats. One of Freeman's clients needed an aquarium of rare, tropical fish moved from Charlottetown to the British Columbia Interior – a journey that involved stops in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver. Travel arrangements required special packaging, convincing Charlottetown airport staff to come to work early and ensuring veterinarians were on standby at each airport ready to administer additional oxygenation.
"When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I sell peace of mind," Freeman says.
To find an IATA pet shipping specialist, visit IPATA.org.