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Get in the Cargo!

Should changes be made regarding the restrictive laws implemented for pets and pet owners travelling on board Australian aircrafts? 

Travelling with pets has become increasingly more popular around the globe. However, Australia still seems to acquire outdated and more restrictive rules and regulations regarding traveling with pets both domestically and internationally, making it difficult for people to do so.  

To put the issue into perspective, findings from a study conducted by Compare the Market showed that no Australian city made the list as a top pet friendly travel destination, while cities such as New York, Seoul and Tokyo took the lead.

Air France was found to be the most pet friendly airline as they allow people to travel with up to three pets on board, and the price is extremely affordable, mirroring the cost of paying for additional standard luggage. 

Second to Air France, results showed that the British based airline Thomas Cook was another top pet friendly airline. For as little as 15 euros you can pay to travel with your pet on board one of their aircrafts, and no weight restrictions apply. 

In contrast, the least pet friendly airlines were found to be EasyJet, Emirates and FlyBe, because they don’t allow pets to travel on board at all. 

Closer to home, Air New Zealand is another one of Compare the Markets more stricter airlines, because pets are required to travel in cargo for international flights. Cathay Pacific also implement similar rules, with the exception of service dogs on board. 

This strongly demonstrates how much work is still required regarding travelling with pets within Australia, and how ridiculous these regulations are in comparison to the less restrictive rules implemented by international airlines. 

TRAVELLING WITHIN AUSTRALIA

Virgin Australia currently only allows Authorised Assistance Dogs to travel on board flights. And in regards to other dogs and cats very strict rules and restrictions apply, and they must travel in cargo. 

An example of a restrictive rule is that pets must be between the age of 8 weeks and 12-years-old, and must not exceed 65kg to be classified as ‘fit for travel’. 

When travelling to Tasmania even further restrictions apply as dogs must be tested for Hydatids Tapeworm prior to flying.

In 2013, Virgin Australia also launched a frequent flyer program for pets, which has slightly increased the number of pets travelling annually. But in comparison to the 2 million pets who travel within the United States each year, Australia still has a long way to go.

Following the Customs (Prohibited Items) Regulations 1956 crossbreeds are only approved and allowed on aircrafts under the discretion of Virgin. This rule is heavily enforced on breeds such as the Japanese Tosa and Fila Brasilerio which are completely banned.

And Qantas have similar rules to Virgin regarding travelling with pets, despite stating on their website that the airline ‘understands your pet is an important member of the family, and, just like people, pets need to travel as quickly and comfortably as possible’.

However, despite their emphasis on comfort, they still subject pets to travel in cargo. 

COUNTER ARGUMENT 

In rebuttal, many people actually agree with the restrictions implemented by Australian airlines in regards to travelling on board with pets. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, between 15-30% of individuals are allergic to dogs and cats to some extent. Symptoms can vary from sneezing to more dangerous reactions, such as severe asthma attacks.

However, a simple solution for this is limiting the number of pets allowed on-board aircrafts and having a designated section for dogs to sit with their owners. A good example of an airline implementing this rule is the American Southwest Airline who restricts pet travel to a maximum of six pets per flight.

Michelle Agnew, a spokeswoman for the airline publicly stated that passengers severely affected by pets on-board can notify an employee and request to be moved, which seems like a fair compromise. 

Airlines such as JetBlue, an American low-cost carrier, go further than that and offer customers a full refund if pets on board a flight have affected their ability to travel, or affected their level of comfort. 

But this controversial debate really comes down to pets not being fully regarded and respected as part of people’s families within Australia. It is unfair that they are separated from their owners and put in less than ideal conditions. Many pets, especially first time flyers, are scared and suffer severe separation anxiety, as the conditions in cargo are less than ideal. In addition to dimly lit lighting, their surroundings are unfamiliar and they are not provided with the comfort or safety that comes with their owner being right by their side. 

Put bluntly, if screaming children can roam freely on an aircraft, then pets should be allowed to be securely caged and sit by their designated carer.

PET PASSPORT AND IMPORT REGULATIONS

Australia’s Pet Passport and Import Regulations are amongst the strictest in the world. 

As a standard precaution, your pet will be imposed to 10 days of quarantine when entering Australia. If you are returning to Australia from another country, even more stricter rules and regulations apply. For example, vaccinations are required for all pets returning from any countries other than New Zealand, Norfolk Island and Keeling Island. 

You must present proof of microchip documentation, submit a rabies test and your dog or cat must be treated against internal parasites twice, with the second test being conducted within five days of your pet returning to the country. 

Because of the unfair travel conditions for pets in Australia, pet owners are encouraged not to travel between the months of December to February because of the hot weather conditions. There are also various breeds of dogs and cats which are not permitted to enter Australia. These include the American Pit Bull, Dogo Argentino and the Perro de Presa. 

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ADVICE FOR TRAVELLING WITHIN AUSTRALIA

If you do decide to travel with your pet it is also important to make sure that they are prepared and fit for travel, especially considering they will not be near you for the duration of the flight.

Purchasing a First Aid kit from your vet is highly recommended. It is useful to have this handy before or after the flight, especially for first time pet travellers. In addition to this, whether you have purchased a container or are borrowing one from the airline, it is useful to ensure that your furry friend becomes accustomed to travelling in these small, confined conditions.

Take them for drives in a small cage and put their favourite toy in there, as well as some drinking water, so that they can warm up and adjust to the idea of being confined to a limited space. 

It is also recommended that you purchase an additional protective kennel mat. This absorbs liquid and will make your pets journey more hygienic and comfortable.

On the day of travel you should feed your pet a light meal a few hours before take off as this will reduce the chances of them feeling ill on the plane. You should also ensure that they drink plenty of water and that they are staying hydrated. 

Nobody understands your beloved pet more than you do, which means that only you will know whether they are suitable for this type of travel or not. Although you may want them with you on your holiday, if they are prone to separation anxiety or don’t have the emotional or physical capabilities to deal with confined spaces, or hours of travel, then travel is not advisable. 

Brachycephalic breeds in particular should not travel as they are naturally at a higher risk of experiencing heat stress. Dogs pant when they are excited, stressed or in high energy situations as a method of evaporative cooling. But Brachycephalic breeds such as French bulldogs, Pugs and Persian cats struggle to do this naturally, which means that they will struggle even more on an aeroplane. 

Pets with thick heavy coats of hair such as Siberian Huskies and Malamutes may also find travelling difficult. Some airlines outright deny these breeds on board purely because they require more supervision.

It is important if you are travelling for the first time with your pet that you visit your vet and get a certificate that certifies that they are fit for travel. As domestic travel with pets grows within Australia, it is paramount to take into account these travelling tips to ensure your pets trip is as comfortable as possible, because put simply, they deserve it.

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