Transport Alternatives

Other Rescue Transport Options

As animal lovers, we know it’s not uncommon to fall in love with a rescue animal who lives in another state, or even another country. Pilots To The Rescue only transports pets that are at risk of being euthanized, so we can’t help you transport a dog or cat just because they live in a shelter that’s far away. If you know of any pets who have been placed on euthanasia lists but don’t have a receiving shelter to bring them, please use our Find a Shelter tool.

When it comes to transporting pets across long distances, air travel is not your only option. There are transportation services that may be able to bring your pet to you by car. Alternatively, you could fly to your animal’s home state and then drive back with your furry friend in a rental vehicle.

If you’ve concluded that air travel is your only viable option, it’s imperative to read each airline’s rules for transporting pets, because there’s a lot of them. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of transporting a dog or cat on a commercial airline:

Where will your pet fly?

The first thing you want to figure out is if your pet will ride in the cabin with you or in the belly of the plane as cargo. If you plan on traveling with your pet as a carry-on, most airlines only allow pets that are small enough to fit comfortably in a crate that goes under the seat in front of you. In terms of length, width, and height, this crate should be measured at approximately 18x8x14.

Larger animals will need to be checked, and only a few airlines offer pet transport via cargo: United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines. American Airlines only allows active-duty U.S. military members or employees of the U.S. State Department Foreign Service to transport a pet via cargo. Different airlines also have their own weight limits for checked pets. United Airlines, for example, imposes a weight limit of 200 lbs., including the pet’s kennel.

Is your breed permitted to fly as cargo?

For various reasons, you’d be surprised to learn that quite a few dog breeds are not permitted to fly as cargo on most airlines, including (but not limited to):

  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Cane Corso
  • Chow Chow
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pit Bull
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu

Similarly, certain cat breeds are not permitted to fly as cargo, either, including (but not limited to)

  • Burmese
  • Persian
  • Himalayan
  • Exotic Shorthair

Does your pet meet age and health requirements?

To fly on a plane as a carry-on or cargo, federal law mandates your pet must be at least 8 weeks old. You’ll also need to provide a health certificate from your veterinarian to ensure your pet is fit to travel. This certificate must be issued within 10 days of your trip. Lastly, if your dog must be transported via cargo, you must make sure your pet is safe and comfortable with a large sized kennel (the biggest one available), a water dispenser that attaches to the crate, and anything else your dog might like such as extra blankets or an item of clothing that carries a familiar smell.

These are just a few of the many rules to keep in mind before transporting a pet on a major airline. Though plenty of pets have flown to new destinations without trouble, just remember that it requires a lot of preparation, and only dogs and cats that meet certain requirements are allowed onboard.  

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