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Packing your pets

May 14, 2007 by Tails Magazine in May 2007, Travel with 0 Comments

There’s more to moving your buddy than bubble wrap

By Greg Presto

Look at you, all set to move. You’ve got your “Get out of Dodge” list almost all checked off: You’ve changed your address, bought a bunch of boxes and tape, called the gas company, and made the obligatory trip to the DMV. Now all you’ve got to do is get the canines and kitties ready to roll.

Put down the packing tape. It’s time to make another list.

Moving with your pets is a big undertaking, so much so that lots of guardians give up: Many shelters cite moving as an oft-used reason for pet drop-offs. While it’s hard to understand how someone could give up his best buddy for a posh two bedroom, perhaps it’s because some people think it’s a tall order to tote Toto.

Getting there is half the fun

“There are a couple of companies out there, you pay them and they’ll just transport the pets for you. They’ll just drive the dog to your destination,” says Alex Dobrow, owner of PeopleWithPets.com, a website for finding apartments, homes, and moving companies for pet lovers. “It’s nice, if you’ve got the means.”
A good way to locate these businesses is by visiting the website of the Animal Transportation system (AATA-animaltransport.org). The AATA (the word air was later dropped) is a non-profit devoted to the humane and safe transport of animals. It has an extensive directory of animal moving companies.

Of course, if you don’t have the means, you’re going to have to move the little guys yourself. Donna Solomon, a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center of Chicago, encourages people to get a pet carrier of adequate size and get him acclimated to the space before you take it for the long haul.

Some people medicate their animals to ease the journey, but this isn’t necessarily advisable. “I always tell people with medication: Try it before you go, because sometimes you have the complete opposite effect,” Solomon says about medicating squeamish pets on long car trips. For animals that get just a little skittish, the doctor sometimes recommends Benadryl or Dramamine to calm them down. But with some pets, she goes the Jack Nicholson route. “For the dog or cat that’s really car sick, I’ll use a little Valium on her to take the edge off of life.” Please consult your veterinarian before administering medication.

Flying with your pet can be more dangerous. Though many airlines have reduced the temperature and crowding risks to pets in the air, it’s still best to avoid taking your buddy into the stratosphere. It’s also important to be careful with drugging pets on planes, Solomon said.

“I try not to medicate a pet on a plane,” she says, “because you want them to adjust the movement of the plane, so they don’t hurt themselves if they’re overmedicated.”

Every animal needs a certificate signed by a veterinarian within 10 days of flying just to get onboard. Pets under 25 pounds can fly under the seat on most airlines, but bigger guys have to be travel checked. And Solomon says those bays are better than before: They’re heated, and the air’s as clean as what the passengers are breathing.

She also warns against the dangers of airline personnel accidentally letting an animal escape. “Just to be safe, I always write on the cages, ‘don’t open, dog is aggressive,’ even if he’s not,” she says. “It’s a just in case thing.”

“When you walk into an apartment, I would say you should use the same standards you would with a small child.”
–Donna Solomon

You did remember to get a place, right?

Before you hit the road, though, you’re going to want to find a home that’s as happy for your hounds and felines as it is for non-furry family and friends. And while you can scope the local scene online or in-person, when you’re buying a place, it’s good to have friends in the business.

“One of the things you pay for with a realtor is the network. They’re very resourceful,” says Blanche Evans, editor of the Dallas-based Realty Times. “It’s not asking too much to ask your realtor what resources are available for pet lovers.”

Besides directing potential buyers to homes in pet-friendly condo communities, Evans said a good realtor should help you navigate your new city’s poop-and-scoop and leash laws, as well as find listings near dog runs and kennels.

“You need those resources to feel comfortable living in a certain kind of home,” she says. “In the city, those resources might be a little more scarce, and a realtor can help you tap into the underground.”

When looking inside a lived-in home, Solomon says to look out for loose wires, lead paint chips, and the like. “When you walk into an apartment, I would say you should use the same standards you would with a small child,” she says.

The lease is not the least of your problems.

Health concerns are big when you’re renting, too, but in that situation you’ve got to get a landlord to approve a pet before you can move in, anyway.

“For a lot of them, it’s not that they’re discriminating,” Dobrow says of landlords who don’t allow pets unilaterally. “It’s an insurance issue for the landlord. If the dog bites somebody and the renter doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, they’re going to go after the apartment community.”

According to John McGeown, a spokesman for Chicago Apartment Finders, even those landlords who do accept pets may reject the guardian of a pet they worry will tear their home to pieces, so it’s important to help them get to know your buddy.

“A pet interview is something you can propose to the landlord,” he says. Bring updated license information and letters of health from your vet, and show the landlord that you’re a responsible caretaker. “You can show them, even if you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t like specific breeds, that you don’t have an aggressive dog.”

In lieu of an interview, both McGeown and Dobrow suggest a pet resume listing the pet’s lineage, licensing information, shots, and size. And if all that doesn’t work, McGeown says to flash some green.

“You can offer a landlord extra money, like a pet deposit,” he says. The industry standard is half a month’s rent. “It’s going to be in the lease. If there’s nothing that’s messed up from the pet, you’re going to get the deposit back.”

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