Pet travel changing as summer season gets underway

This week, US carrier Alaska Airlines confirmed a partnership with the largest veterinary practice in the US ahead of the busy summer travel season, which has already seen plenty of changes for pet-owners wishing to travel with their furry friends.

With millions of passengers expected to jet abroad with their pets during the summer, Alaska announced that every passenger and pet will be given free consultation ahead of their flight by Banfield Pet Hospital.

The aim of the sessions is to prepare owners and animals ahead of the flight, as well as issuing the health certificate (Alaska will offer flyers a $10 discount) required under federal law when animals cross state boundaries.

Alaska Airlines, like competitors Delta and America, welcomes pets to fly both in its cabins and cargo holds, as long as the meet certain conditions -- from May this year, those conditions will be tightened, with new regulations stating that kennels must be equipped with nut and bolt locks, rather than sliding or zip-tie fasteners.

Although pet fatalities in the US fell in 2011 compared to 2011, many airlines have toughened up their rules on transportation of animals, with United banning passengers from checking animals in as luggage at the desk earlier this year, instead requiring passengers to ship them as special cargo.

US Airways reportedly introduced a similar policy of banning animals from the hold last month, joining carriers Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue, although pets small enough to be allowed in the cabin can still be carried on by passengers.

In Europe, many air carriers require the use of a 'pet travel agent', responsible for minimizing the risks of pet transportation and taking care of documentation and the vaccinations required -- although some airlines will carry animals in the hold on short-haul flights, if they are small enough.

For passengers who live in countries where transport must be arranged independently it's even trickier, as the laws can vary from country to country, but many nations will require rabies shots ahead of departure, some require tapeworm treatment as of 2012 and others may insist on quarantine on arrival at both ends.

All pets moving within the EU will also require a 'pet passport' under European rules, which from this year will also require an embedded microchip that contains information specific to the animal.

For more information:

International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA): http://www.ipata.org/

EU - Traveling with Pets: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/qanda_en.htm

US - Pet Travel: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/pet_travel/pet_travel.shtml

PetTravel.com: http://www.pettravel.com/

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