Pet Travel Programs Can’t Clean Up Gaps in Airline Business Culture

As Delta prepares to make a fuller announcement about its new pet travel program and partnership with Carepod, it may need to evaluate and make changes to its broader business culture. On a flight last Thursday, passenger Matthew Meehan boarded a flight from Atlanta to Miami and stepped in dog poop left by a golden retriever puppy who had gotten ill on the previous flight. Whether it’s a dog or a person, people get sick. Especially when traveling on a plane and the turbulence that may occur during the flight.

As Meehan told Yahoo Lifestyle, it was what happened after the puppy pooped in the plane that was a failure on multiple levels. First, while there is supposed to be a biohazardous waste kit onboard every flight, this plane didn’t have one. So, when Meehan alerts the flight crew of the dog feces underneath and surrounding his seat, he learns that the flight crew already knew about the incident. Apparently, the flight crew had reported the problem so as to have some airline staff member clean the mess up, but it never happened. So, instead of calling back to the gate to have proper sanitation materials brought on board, the flight crew gives Meehan two paper towels and a small bottle of gin to clean himself up in the airplane lavatory. Needless to say, this is woefully inadequate.

Photo from Facebook

Meanwhile, the flight continues to board. When other passengers in nearby seats smell the mess of dog poop, they rightfully demand it is cleaned. A member of the flight crew cleans the area with what appears to be nothing other than paper towels. The flight crew says they checked the flight records and they believe it was either a German Shepherd or an old man. Again, the truth was that it was a golden retriever puppy. So, now because the flight is full and with the area and passengers still smelling of dog poop, Meehan is given the option of getting off the plane or retaking his seat.

After the flight, Delta Airlines refunded the cost of the flight and offered Meehan, who is a million-mile Diamond Medallion member of Delta’s SkyMiles program, 50,000 frequent flyer miles. They also said they took the plane out of service to have it completely disinfected. The most troubling sign in this ordeal, however, is the lack of accountability as the flight crew, gate staff, and airline managers all proceeded to avoid responsibility in making sure the plane was properly cleaned before take-off.

Like so many unfortunate incidents we hear about, the problem isn’t so much in the pet travel programs and policies themselves. Rather, it’s a multi-point failure to follow through on these air travel policies that create these nightmare scenarios. And that’s a function of the larger business culture.


Read more

Dog Lost by American Airlines Shows Need for Advanced GPS Tracking

We came across a story on our social media that American Airlines lost track of a pet dog and then failed to give accurate information about the pet’s whereabouts and care after the fact. Ares was six hours into a scheduled layover when his owner contacted the airline, who said they knew where Ares was. Except, they didn’t. Hours later, they finally found the beloved pet still in the main cargo area, rather than being moved to the kenneling area where the pets can be properly cared for.

Photo from Facebook

Despite this troubling news, the airline assured the pet’s owner, Katie Trusiak, that Ares had been given water, food, and let out of his crate during the roughly 24-hour period in which he was in the airline’s care. Only the evidence seemed to tell a different story since the crate was still locked with the original zip ties. The airline later confirmed that Ares was given water but was NOT let out of his crate or given any of the food that had been taped to the top of his crate.



While Ares now appears to be on the mend, he is still afraid of his kennel. Hopefully, he isn’t permanently traumatized by the event. If it were up to us, American Airlines would, as part of their response to this incident, offer to buy Ares a brand-new dog carrier to help him rebuild positive associations with kenneling. When we heard about this story 48 hours after the facts, the airline still hadn’t even reimbursed the owner for the cost of Ares’ travel.



The Need for Modern-Day GPS Pet Tracking

This disturbing incident also shows the need for more universal adoption of modern-day GPS tracking systems. Sendum helped develop and pioneer modern-day tracking devices that provide information in real-time for GPS location, temperature, humidity, shock events, and other data about the location and conditions in which your pet is being transported. In 2015, Delta Airlines first introduced these tracking devices to the airline industry as a standard part of their pet travel services. And while pretty much every major airline allows customers to place these tracking devices on their cargo packages, very few include this type of tracking as part of their pet travel programs.


No System is 100% Foolproof

Of course, the most sophisticated tracking and monitoring system in the world is only effective if it’s properly activated and attached to the pet crate. No doubt, if American Airlines pet travel and cargo system had been followed to the letter, they never would have lost Ares in the first place. When there is a travel incident, especially one in which the airline is so clearly at fault, it’s on them to do what they can to make things right. We were saddened to hear about what happened to Ares, but we were also disheartened that when the airline contacted the pet owner, they apparently failed to make even basic assurances that they would reimburse the cost of travel and help make sure that Ares could recover from the potentially traumatizing incident.

Read more

Different Airline Strategies for Pet Travel Programs

From new airport pet relief stations to the newest pet carriers, we try to keep track of every corner of the pet travel industry. Especially the information that is likely to have a real-world impact on your travel plans. But more than just the nitty-gritty details that will guide you through airports and cities on any particular trip, we also wanted to take a step back and look at the broader strategies and programs that airlines are implementing to facilitate pet travel.

A wide-angle view of the pet travel industry over the last decade or so shows that a handful of stories about pets deaths have largely been the result of more people bringing more pets with them on their travels. Sometimes, people do so even when the animal is vulnerable to dangerous health conditions that can be triggered by stressful situations.

This has led airlines to take implement tighter regulations and pet travel policies, while also working to add pet amenities and safety features designed to make the entire experience more comfortable for pets and pet owners. Today, some 2-3 million pets fly on planes each year just within the U.S. Pets suffering serious harm during air travel is becoming increasingly rare. And when it does happen, it’s almost always because either the pet owner or airline employee wasn’t following the rules.


Consider These Airline Pet Travel Programs

In this context, we wanted to highlight three different airlines and the programs and partnerships they’ve created to enhance their pet travel offerings. These examples also demonstrate that, while the airline industry is being aggressive in developing and marketing pet travel programs, individual airline carriers are taking different approaches.


  • United: What’s happened with the United PetSafe program has been the most visible change this year and over the last few years. Known for being the go-to airline for pet travel, United Airlines was for a time the last carrier to allow cargo pet travel of high-risk snub-nosed pet breeds. This led to a number of animal deaths and a bunch of negative publicity. Without litigating every detail of every case, this is a classic case of market overreach to the detriment of the core brand. While striving to lead the industry in pet travel, the airline suffered harm to its overall reputation for safety. After being suspended for several months, the United Airlines PetSafe program relaunched in June of this year with new prohibitions against sub-nosed pet travel.


  • Alaska Air: Going back to 2012, Alaska Air and Banfield Pet Hospital have partnered together to market their brands but also to enhance the pet travel services to an existing segment of their respective customer bases. To this day, Alaska Air customers can get a personalized travel consultation and a great deal on their pet travel services by visiting a qualifying Banfield location. Meanwhile, Alaska Air adds credibility to its program, Fur-st Class Pet Care. With more than 750 locations in more than 40 states, Banfield Pet Hospital is one of the largest providers of small animal veterinary care in the country. Thus, this partnership is also one of the first national pet travel programs of its kind.


  • Delta: Even if the exact details aren’t available yet, one of the more recent developments worth noting is Delta Airlines announcement that they are partnering with CarePod, a pet technology start-up, to expand their pet tracking and concierge services. It’s perceived to be part of a larger play the airline is making for pet travel and the growing importance of supplemental revenue streams to today’s airline industry.


It remains to be seen how successful these airline pet travel programs will be. Undoubtedly, the airlines define success by at least two different measures: How much revenue/profit is generated by their pet travel programs directly and whether those pet travel operations positively or negatively contribute to their company’s reputation for safe, reliable air travel. As a passenger and as a pet owner, this larger context may help you understand why various airline pet travel policies are put in place.


Read more

Do’s and Don’ts for Dressing Up Pets in Costumes

If you’re planning on dressing up a pet in a costume this year, but don’t know if that’s “weird,” there’s good news. You won’t be the only one looking at animal garb this Halloween. According to research from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights, 18 percent of all people who plan to celebrate Halloween in some capacity will be putting their pet in a costume. Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist also highlighted this part of the survey. “One of the biggest trends this year is the growth of spending on pet costumes. Out of the 31.3 million Americans planning to dress their pets in costumes, millennials (25-34) are most likely to dress up their pets, the highest we have seen in the history of our surveys.”


The Practice has Its Critics

Despite its popularity, a lot of people say you should never dress up a pet. If you look at the fine print, most of these warnings include a contextual judgment about exploiting pets for entertainment and then naming issues that seem mostly avoidable if you’re careful. Nothing is ever 100% safe, right? We’re not going to try to tell every pet owner how safe they need to be with their pets, but we do think you should know what to keep an eye on if you plan to put a pet in costume this Halloween.


Three Steps for Dressing Up a Pet in Costume


  1. Know Your Pet.

A few animals seem to really enjoy their costumes and many animals are willing to tolerate them, but more than a few absolutely hate wearing anything other than their own coats of fur. Especially if we’re including cats in the discussion. You may not truly know how your pet will react until you give it a try, but you can probably make an educated guess. If you have a generally pliable and agreeable animal for a pet, there’s a better chance for success. Animals that are more finicky, standoffish, and/or easily overstimulated are more likely to throw a fit. Along with not subjecting your pet to something they obviously hate, what you really need to watch for is the “silent suffer”—who tries to hide their discomfort from you.


  1. Use Safe Pet Costumes.

Again, this goes double for the silent sufferer, but you want to be extra mindful about how your pet is carrying the costume on their body and in what ways they can get at the costume itself. Make sure the material is sufficiently soft or otherwise isn’t likely to hurt the animal’s skin. Make sure the costume isn’t so thick and insulating that it causes overheating. Make sure there aren’t buttons or other items that can be chewed, swallowed, and/or choked on. Make sure the pet’s range of motion isn’t restricted and that there are no facial impediments especially around the eyes.


  1. Don’t Make it a Habit.

The most common problem with pet costumes is the skin irritation, but we’ve found that this isn’t as much of a concern when you’re only putting the pet into a costume for a few hours, once or twice a year. (January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day.) To be fair, we do know pet owners who keep their animals in clothes for much of the winter and claim their animals appreciate the extra insulation. But it can be especially problematic to continue the practice into the warmer months in which overheating becomes a much bigger risk.

Read more

Should You Be Concerned about the Dog Flu?

Dog flu, or canine influenza, is a rare but life-threatening condition for vulnerable dogs. Cases of dog flu tend to flare up in clusters every few years. Most recently, there was an outbreak this year in Michigan that spread to more than 100 affected dogs. Fortunately, so long as you take the necessary precautions, there’s really no reason to be worried. Here is what we think you should know about protecting your pet dog from the flu.


Get Your Dog Vaccinated

The best thing you can do is to get your dog vaccinated. One of the reasons why dog flu is relatively rare is because effective vaccinations exist and because most animal travel requires vaccinations. This is one of the things the veterinarian should do when you bring the dog in to get a health certificate. Even if the dog isn’t coming along for the adventure, be sure to get the dog vaccinated if you plan on boarding the pet. And this isn’t the only thing to watch out for. Being around large numbers of dogs in a confined space is a big risk factor. Being around large numbers of animals from high-risk species (especially birds and horses) is another risk factor. Think twice about traveling to a place that’s known to have an active outbreak of dog flu. Finally, very young, older, and snub-nosed breeds are also more susceptible to getting canine influenza.

It’s never a bad idea to get your dog vaccinated, but especially if they fall into one of these groups, we strongly recommend it.


Don’t Wait Too Long to Visit the Vet

Just as it is with humans, it is very rare but not impossible for a dog to contract the flu even after getting vaccinated. The virus may mutate, and the vaccine may not be effective against the new strain. And just like humans, it can be hard to diagnose the flu at first. Canine influenza and kennel cough are virtually impossible to tell apart at first. While most strains tend to be fatal for dogs in only about 10 percent of cases, this may not be true for the next mutation, it may not be true if your dog is vulnerable, and it may not be true if you ignore the problem and assume it will eventually go away on its own.

Again, you don’t need to be overly worried, so long as you’re proactive about getting the vaccine and following up if any symptoms do emerge.


Basic Information about Canine Influenza

More than just the steps to protect your particularly beloved pet, you might also be interested in some of the global concerns about canine influenza. Until relatively recently, many experts thought that dogs were largely resistant to the flu. And it’s true that the dog flu is less common than avian, equine, and even human influenza. But since 2004 in which a group of greyhounds became infected at a Florida racetrack, there have been more outbreaks and many now question just how far this resistance extends. Moreover, the increasing frequency of outbreaks gives additional credence to the notion that dogs are “mixing vessels.” Species that serve as “mixing vessels” are species that can contract, mutate, and then pass on new influenza strains to other species, while suffering relatively little harm to their own species.

So, along with protecting your own pet, getting dogs vaccinated and avoiding high-risk environments can help protect your dog, your family, other people, and other species from the next pandemic.

Read more

Woman Finds Perfect Pet Dog by Expanding Search Area

There may be several things you’re looking for in a new pet. Some people need a hypoallergenic pet. Some people are looking for a pet of a certain size and temperament. Some people need a pet that will get along with other animals. Some people prefer the convenience of a one-year-old dog straight out of obedience school. Others wouldn’t dream of missing out on the cuteness and fiercely loyal bond of having a young kitten or puppy around the house. So, while there are a lot of pets out there waiting to be adopted, this doesn’t mean you can find the right pet for your family at just any animal shelter or pet store. Finding the perfect pet may require expanding the search beyond your immediate area.

Ingrid Boveda, a resident of Salt Lake City, found her perfect pet 1,300 miles away at an animal shelter in the small town of Houston, Missouri. Ingrid was looking for a pet that had a similar look and temperament as her other dog, a sweet but aging Shar Pei Lab named Hooch. She recalls it was her twin brother who first turned her on to the charms of the Shar Pei Lab: “The first thing I noticed was the unique combination of facial features, but what drew me to them the most was Hooch’s personality. Hooch was very mellow (even though he was just barely an adult dog) and exceptionally sweet.” When Ingrid eventually inherited Hooch from her brother, she grew even fonder of the dog. “He had his own little spin on all the typical things dogs did. For example, he wouldn’t chew or tear up my house. He’d just ‘redecorate,’ or move certain household items from one area to another, usually in protest of not getting enough attention.”


Turner has been settling into his new home quite nicely since landing in Salt Lake City.

Be Diligent in Researching the Pet Organization
The idea for getting a new pet came about naturally enough. “Hooch is getting older,” Ingrid explains, “and although still sweet and mellow, he’s starting to decline in terms of health. I then happened to google ‘Shar Pei lab’ because it never occurred to me to wonder whether Hooch looked like the ‘typical’ Shar Pei lab. I came upon Turner (then Luke), another Shar Pei lab waiting for his forever home in a nonprofit shelter in Missouri.”

While finding Turner came about easily enough, the actual decision and adoption plan were a little more involved. She had recently moved in with her boyfriend Paul. “The tradeoff to looking far and wide for the dog is that you often don’t get to meet them before adopting them, so in that case, Paul and I had chatted on the phone with Turner’s shelter and asked about his temperament, potential problem behaviors, health, and why he was at the shelter.”

More than just asking after the pet, Ingrid learned that “some breeder websites are actually scams where you never actually get a dog, and that’s pretty sad, so maybe in those cases I would go with a more local-ish breeder where I can see the puppies as well as their paperwork.”


Get a Referral—and Health Travel Certification—from the Pet Source
Whether it’s an animal shelter or breeder, once you’ve done your research, it’s good to know that, before getting on a plane, your pet will be directed examined by a veterinary professional who knows the animal’s history. The shelter or breeder may also have local connections for animal delivery services that you can use.

There is also likely to be a network of vets and animal delivery services with which the shelter or breeder has a relationship. “The shelter in Houston had recommended the pet delivery service that we chose. The choice seemed more driven by what was available in the area and when they would be able to transport Turner.”

These local connections can be especially helpful when the pet might otherwise be restricted from air travel. For example, because Turner is part Shar Pei, he is considered a “snub-nosed” dog and required specific temperatures to fly safely. “This certainly presents an added inconvenience when compared to getting a dog locally,” Boveda allows, “though we also knew that Turner was up for adoption and there was no other Shar Pei lab locally that needed their forever home. So we waited a couple of weeks so that Turner could get his necessary medical clearing and for the weather to be just right.”


Turner hanging out with his new brother and purebred Shar Pei, Wiggles!

Do Your Homework, But Be Prepared to Take a Leap of Faith
In the end, Ingrid was more worried about her future with her new pet than the logistics of pet travel. “Paul and I were for sure antsy in the week to days leading up to Turner’s arrival. We talked a lot about how he might get along with Hooch, and shared our worries about the possibility that he was going to be a difficult dog, or just a dog that wasn’t compatible with our lifestyle. My nerves the day he arrived were more the nervous jitters and excitement of getting a new dog. I did wonder what it must be like for Turner to get put on a plane and being soon to meet his new parents. So I did feel this want to make sure he’d know as soon as he saw us that the journey was going to be worth it.” Ultimately, the pickup experience was joyous and uneventful. It helps that even amidst construction at the SLC International Airport, there’s clear signage indicating the turnoff at 3700 W for the airport cargo facility area.

When asked to reflect on what she learned from the experience, Ingrid suggests being patient and looking outside the county or even the state. “This is one of those longer term commitments that affects your travel and social plans…so it pays to wait for the right dog. Turner was sort of an impulsive decision and although we don’t regret it, we’ve reflected on it since and feel like the vetting (get it?) process shouldn’t be rushed.” Still, even after doing their homework, Ingrid confesses that she and Paul were scared they would adopt a disaster. It all turned out well in the end. “We’re happy to say that Turner, like his counterpart Hooch, is his own version of sweetness.”

Read more
Have a Pet Carrier? Is It Approved Size?
Calming Meds for Flights. We have CBD Meds, Too
Have a Digital Pet ID?
Non-Squeak Chew Toys: Don’t Be That Guy
Have Pet Insurance?
Pet Treats for the Flight?
Follow Us on Twitter
Breed-by-Breed Directory
Featured Breed: Affenpinscher
Featured Breed: Biewer Terrier
Featured Breed: Bichon Frise
Featured Breed: Brussels Griffon
Featured Breed: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Featured Breed: Chihuahua
Featured Breed: Dachshund
Featured Breed: English Toy Spaniel
Featured Breed: Havanese
Featured Breed: Japanese Chin
Featured Breed: Maltese
Featured Breed: Manchester Terrier
Featured Breed: Miniature Pinscher
Featured Breed: Norfolk Terrier
Featured Breed: Norwich Terrier
Featured Breed: Papillon
Featured Breed: Pekingese
Featured Breed: Pomeranian
Featured Breed: Poodles
Featured Breed: Russian Bolonka
Featured Breed: Russian Toy
Featured Breed: Shih Tzu
Featured Breed: Silky Terrier
Featured Breed: Toy Fox Terrier
Featured Breed: Yorkshire Terrier