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Prior planning for holiday travel is essential for pet owners, whether they are taking an animal companion with them or boarding the furry family member until they return.


Many people may not realize it, but interstate and international travel regulations require a pet have a health certificate, said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, Oklahoma State University Extension veterinarian and director of continuing education for the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.


“Whether traveling by car, train or air, check with a veterinarian about these regulations,” she said. “A veterinarian will have information about the regulations of all the states the pet may be traveling through.”


For automobile travel, use a proper pet restraint such as a secure harness or carrier placed clear of the vehicle’s airbags.  Pets should never be transported in the bed of a truck. Most everyone knows dogs love to put their faces in the wind while riding in a vehicle, but keep in mind a bump in the road or an accident can cause the animal to be thrown from the vehicle.


“While most pet owners are aware their animal companions shouldn’t be left in a vehicle in the heat of the summer, reality is they should never be left in a vehicle in any weather,” Biggs said. “If a holiday road trip requires an overnight stay at a hotel, call ahead and make a reservation at a place that is pet friendly.”


Life is much easier when a pet is trained to stay in a crate train. When out of town at a hotel or visiting relatives, the crate often becomes a home-away-from-home for a pet given the animal’s familiarity with being inside.


For those traveling by air and considering taking their pets with them, consult a veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs.


“Pets are important members of our family, so learn all of the rules and regulations of air travel before arriving at the airport,” Biggs said. “Call the airline well in advance to learn about restrictions regarding animal breed, as well as health, kennel and weather requirements.”


No matter what transportation method is chosen, be sure to pack all pet essentials with the same care one would for a person. Include pet food and any medications, as well as copies of medical records, first aid supplies and a couple of the animal’s favorite toys. Be sure to include a recent photograph of owner and animal together. This can help confirm ownership should the pet get separated from a two-legged family member.


For those who may not have the option or desire to take their pet on a holiday trip, finding a reputable kennel is a must. For some, getting home care is even better since the pet sitter can look after the house, as well as any pets.


“If that’s not an option, get recommendations from pet-owner friends and family to see what kennel they use in the area,” Biggs said. “If possible, visit the kennel before making a reservation for a pet. Ask to see the kennel’s license or certificate showing the kennel meets mandated standards.”


Tour the facility. Check to see if it looks and smells clean. Ask the staff questions about how they care for the animals and see if outdoor runs and exercise areas are protected from the wind, rain and snow. Always find out ahead of time if the kennel provides bedding or if it needs to be provided by the pet owner.


“The kennel will most likely require a pet’s up-to-date veterinary records before allowing the animal to stay,” Biggs said. “The facility operators also may require a dog be vaccinated for canine kennel cough. Be sure to ask about bringing the pet’s own food.”


Some kennels offer a variety of services such as grooming, training and bathing, but keep in mind these services will come at a price.

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