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Pets on a plane

Pets on a plane
What you need to know and the paperwork you will need
The Associated Press
A half-million pets fly each year, according the Transportation Department. But not all airlines let them fly in the cabin, and other policies vary.
Some airlines charge to take pets along in the cabin; some don't. Some restrict the travel of short-nosed animals, such as Persian cats and pugs, which have shorter nasal passages that make breathing difficult at higher altitudes. Most also don't allow pets to travel as cargo in temperatures below 20 degrees and above 85 degrees.
Here's what you need to know about flying with your pet:
Federal officials began making the pet-related travel statistics public last year for the first time as part of regulations under the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act, which Congress passed 2000 under pressure from animal rights activists. Most air trips with pets are without incident. There were 14 reported pet deaths, four injuries and six lost animals between May and September 2006.
Most airlines require pets to be considered healthy, under 100 pounds and at least 8 weeks old.
Pets are never allowed out of their containers, and, of course, the airline assumes no responsibility for their health and well-being. (Many even state on their Web sites that crew members cannot perform lifesaving measures on ailing pets.)
Less traditional pets, such as potbellied pigs, primates and certain venomous reptiles, aren't allowed at all.
The Agriculture Department, which regulates pet air travel, requires a health certificate from a vet 10 days before traveling for animals flying as cargo, but not when flying as checked baggage or carry-on. It's a good idea to carry one anyway in case you are asked for it.
Many airlines, including American, Continental and United, suggest and apply the certification even for pets transported in the cabin because some states require it. (To learn which ones, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/sregs.) Health certification is also required on most international flights.
Fees vary. JetBlue charges $50 for a pet to fly in the cabin, Continental $95, American and Northwest, $80. It's free on USAir Shuttle and Delta Shuttle.
American, Delta and JetBlue allow pets in the cabin. Frontier and Champion allow them only as cargo. Southwest won't let pets fly at all.
Some airlines allow only one animal in the cabin per flight. American allows up to seven.
American requires paperwork certifying that pets were fed and watered within four hours before delivery. Most other carriers don't.
TIPS FOR FLYING WITH FIDO
Alert the airline of a pet when booking your flight to make sure there's room in the cabin.
Fly during a weekday when airports are less hectic.
Fly in the morning or evening during the summer and midday during the winter to ensure safe temperatures for pets traveling as cargo.
Choose a nonstop, direct flight.
Exercise your pet before leaving to help it relax and sleep.
Do not feed or give water to your pet two hours before departure.
Check in at least two hours before time and have all paperwork ready.
Tape a note on the pet container with all relevant information: name of the pet, age, destination and flight number.
Make sure the carry-on container will fit under the seat.
Familiarize your pet with its carrier before leaving home, and make sure the pet is wearing tags or is microchipped.