Traveling With Your Rescued or Adopted Animal
Taking an animal off Island is one of the best solutions to help a dog or cat as there are no ‘NO KILL shelters’ on the Island accepting animals that we are aware of and the situation for street animals is very bad, as explained on our Rescue page. Estimated airline travel costs are towards the bottom of this page.
5 Steps to Travel & Helpful Information
Note: PR is a US Territory so rules are pretty minimal on all Airlines, no quarantines for USA. Always use the 3 letter airport identification/call letters because using airport names leads to confusion. You can do the below without Defensa’s help. But should you need financial help with traveling your rescued animal we will need to make a fundraiser specifically for your situation. After reading this page in full, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – Make the SUBJECT LINE the NAME of your rescued animal. Include in the email the weight/age/breed, a story of how & why your animal was rescued from the streets of PR, why the financial help is needed for travel, how much $$ is needed (call the airlines as a regular consumer to estimate), which airlines & airports-call-letters will be used and a few photos of your rescued animal. We will take that information and make a fundraiser. We will continue to work with you via email. Once the funds are raised we can REIMBURSE for the travel (all airlines require payment at time of check-in – Defensa does NOT have a billing account with any airlines – we just have discounts available with only United and American Airlines – as explained in more detail below).
1) Call the Airline to learn their specific rules & book your animal.
Decide, based on their rules and the size of your animal, if you can carry the animal into the cabin or need to check the animal into cargo. Carrying on is always cheaper, easier & better for the animal – so try to do a carry on in cabin trip. ‘Emotional Support/ESA’, ‘Therapy’ and ‘Service’ Dogs are allowed in cabin. To find out if you or your dog qualify you can speak to your airlines, reference this ESA Travel Document and use Google.
No matter if you carry on or cargo/check a dog or cat you will need to tell the airlines what breed your animal is when booking. Keep in mind the airline employees are not Vets so they will NOT normally challenge the breed (the Vet will put the breed on the travel voucher/certificate, see below). As of this writing Nov 2015 – American Airlines no longer allows on Cargo flights several breeds (dogs & cats) listed at the very bottom of this page. But many dogs in Puerto Rico are ‘Lab Mix’ or “ALANO ESPANOL mix” – both of which are accepted. Suggest to the Vet these breeds if needed. American Airlines new rule as of 2017 ”If an animal is of mixed breed, then the health certificate must state both the predominant breed and the word ‘mix’ or ‘mixed’.”
If you are not traveling yourself and you can not find someone to carry on a small dog or cat for you – Please try to book with United 800-575-3335 as they have a PetSafe Unaccompanied Animal Shipping Program – flying in/out of Aguadilla/BQN that is temperature controlled (more comfortable for the animal and less likely to be cancelled due to temperature issues on the travel route). The discount given to Defensa for our **un-owned/street rescued animals is only about $50**
American Airlines Cargo out of San Juan/SJU 800-227-4622 – Website with Rules and Helpful information! The discount given to Defensa for our **un-owned/street rescued animals is only about 75% off retail** AA Cargo drop-off is adjacent to San Juan airport – link to google map but use with following directions – Directions Overview – for specific directions or travel/temperature questions call their local number 787-253-6100 or 6258 (call them if you feel lost too). Take 2 towards SJ and then 22 all the way. In SJ area connect to 26 and get off Muniz Base exit. Take left then take that road all the way to end. At end make left and you will see AA Cargo. Don’t go to the Navel Base that you will see towards your right, go towards ‘Cargo’, towards your left.
2) Get a Health Certificate & Acclimation Letter from a PR Vet within 10 days of the flight. Young animals, Get them a BORDETELLA vaccination too
You will need to put the breed of the animal on the voucher, as mentioned above this is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. Make sure it matches the breed you tell the airlines when booking. Keep in mind the airlines are not Vets so they will not normally challenge the breed the Vet puts on the travel voucher/certificate. ‘Lab Mix’ or “Alano Espanol mix” are excellent choices for many of the mixed street dogs found in Puerto Rico. American Airlines new rule as of 2017 ”If an animal is of mixed breed, then the health certificate must state both the predominant breed and the word ‘mix’ or ‘mixed’.” If you need a local Vet referal please see our Vets page.
What you need when you go to the Vet for a Travel Certificate – The Contact information for the person doing Airline check in, The Contact information for the person doing Airline pickup, Rabies Certificate (you will need for the Airlines). Contact information = ID information + phone numbers
The normal temperature range that the Travel/Health Certificate has listed is too narrow for AMERICAN AIRLINES during certain times of year – you should ask your Airlines and your Vet about extending the temperatures allowed to travel *even if you don’t think temps will be an issue* .. “Better Safe Than Sorry your Rescue Can’t Fly”. Note: UNITED AIRLINES, puts Cargo animals in temperature controlled areas. They charge more, say $100 to $200 depending, but we recommend United Airlines over American Airlines for only that reason. American gives much greater discounts to Animal Rescue groups so if you can not cover the difference in cost, you will need to use American Airlines.
NOTE: Animals with active symptoms (cough, itch, etc.) or still finishing meds may still ‘pass’ and receive a Travel Certificate from a Vet *BUT* because travel can be a stress on an animal, and bring their immune system down, they could end up sicker after the flight. This is a risk worth taking some times when an animal has no home. But this is something you should be aware of. Always ask the Vet for their opinion. And if there is somewhere the animal can stay to gain perfect health before flying, that is always preferred. Ask for hard-copies of all the Animals Medical records indicating all services rendered so adoptive family can continue where we left off in PR. You can tape papers to the crate or give to person traveling in cabin with the animal. In our experience, the airlines don’t like animals to take meds in the crates, and if you mention it, it can be a red flag and cause an animal not to travel. If you can USPS the meds to the other end that might be best. Meds are typically cheaper in PR.
3) Get a Carrier | Purchase or Borrow
Always defer to the airlines for their specific crate rules. As for the right size, Basically, the animal needs to be able to stand up and turn around in the crate comfortably. If the animal looks stuffed or mushed into the crate they will not allow travel. The crate must be big enough for your pet to stand, turn, sit and lie down in a natural position. Give your animal plenty of time prior to the flight to get comfortable in the kennel. The internet has many resources for helping animals to be comfortable in crates.
The chances of the best crate in stock! PetCo in Aguadilla at the new Marshall’s Plaza – 2 towards Aguadilla, pass the turn off for the Aguadilla Airport/107 and immediate next ‘calle marginal’ (or little side road that looks like a turn off/driveway).
PetSmart by the Mayaquez University
Walmart 787-834-2280 – take the 115 to the 2 South – look for the Mayagüez Mall on the left – about 30 miles from Rincon
KMart take the 115 to the 2 South – located in Home Depot and Sam’s Club shopping center
Any ‘Feed Store’ on the side of the road might sell one too. Rincon Feed Store is located on the 115, in the Plaza with YognFruz and Sandwich Delight. Aguada Feed Store is 787-868-2810 Take the 115 from Rincon, North – until you hit the one way street into Downtown Aguada, Turn Right at that 4 way stop, before going into Downtown Aguada – Alexi’s store is about the 3rd on the Right. Gps 18.380363, -67.191954 on Google Maps. Located around the corner from Aguada Animal Medical Clinic where you can get a Travel Health Certificate.
Ask on Facebook to borrow or use one. Rincon has a large group called ‘Friends of Rincon’ you should ask in that group.
4) Getting the animal to the Airport
The person taking the animal to the airport for check in should have a hard or soft copy of the airlines confirmation for the animals. Ask the specific airlines AHEAD of time how they accept payment for the flight – normally you PAY AT THE TIME YOU CHECK THE ANIMAL IN – MAKE CERTAIN, the person checking the animal in at the Airline Counter is on the reservation as well as the person picking the animal up at the destination airport – you can always call after an animals reservation is made and add/change names on the reservation. If you need a taxi to take the animal you can try …. Ivette Me Taxi 787-505-3468 Ramon Taxi 787-823-5938 Rincon Taxi Carlos 787-398-3621
5) Picking an animal up from the airport
We suggest you bring to the airport an old towel, plastic bag, wipes, harness/collar, leash, food/water/treats and bowl (for water). You will need your ID to pick up an animal and that ID must match the paperwork. If the animal is flying in Cargo, unaccompanied, the Airlines will ask for the name of the person receiving/picking up the animal. The name given at check-in must match the name on the ID of the person who picks the animal up from the destination airport!
Estimate of Costs
- At a minimum you need a Vet issued Travel Document. These are normally around $25. To be issued the miminal tests/vaccinations/treatment required should be under $50. You can use the Open Rescue program if you would like Defensa to cover these costs. If you decide to spay/neuter and 4dx test in PR you will save money – all these services sould be just around $200 or less. Normally an animal needs 10 days recovery before traveling but the decision is up to the Vet.
- Airlines Flight – Range from $100+ for small carry on animals to $270-PLUS for large animals. If you use the Defensa AA SJU Cargo discount/service the cost is only from $80 to $150. American Airlines is very generous with discounts for rescue groups. No other airlines is that we are aware of.
- Notes United Flight Jan 2016 52lb dog with discount $365 United
- Crate/Carrier – Range from $40-300
- Remember these are ONE TIME FEES that can mean the difference between a life on the streets suffering or a life with a family.
- Flights are priced by weight of animal + crate. A large crate with food + water can weigh 30lbs. Have the agent weigh the dog + crate *before* you put the water and food in/attached to crate. Just a few lbs could save you money if it puts you over a threshold. A large crate with food + water can weigh 30lbs
Some general information – Notes & Thoughts from those who Travel Animals Regularly
United at BQN – One person’s experience – to be considered – possibly not everyone’s experience. Arrive the 2 hours early as they request. Enter though the ‘front’ entrance where there is a drive around (most people enter BQN from the side entrance and there might look to be a line as people have to put their luggage through customs scanning before they go to ticket counter. You do not have to do that with an animal.) Best if you can have one person go park while the other scoots or carries the crate over to the United counter. Put the dog into the crate before you go into the airport. If an agent sees you in line they will motion for you to come up to the side. They have to do a lot of paper work so it could take 30 minutes to an hour to check in. TSA will be called over to have you pull the dog out of the crate so they can inspect the crate. United will provide the LIVE ANIMAL stickers. You can bring a small bag of dog food in a plastic bag and they will tape it to the top. Definitely read the United Kennel requirements too. Their website is excellent. We were told over the phone that the dog could not be picked up until an hour after landing. That was not true and United called us to find out where the pick up people were.
Pilots N Paw – Connecting Pilots with Rescued Animals Needing Transportation – Work directly with http://pilotsnpaws.org
Visiting a Veterinarian to get the travel certificate normally is required to be no more than 10 DAYS OLD from date of travel. Meaning you need to take the animal to the Vet 9 or 8 or 7 or LESS days before your flight.
A travel certificate normally just requires a visual exam by the Vet – a vaccination – rabies if the animal is 6 months or older and a fecal exam to rule out parasites (meds can be given if fecal exam is positive – the animal can still get a health certificate, if you start them on the meds)
The 4DX test (which tests for 4 different blood born pathogens, including Heartworm) is your choice for dogs 6 months or older, but it is not required for Health Certificate. The test and the medicines are cheaper in Puerto Rico. That would be the main reason you do the test in Puerto Rico. Even if an animal tests positive for one of the four condictions, they can normally travel as long as you purchase and start the treatments. You normally can not send meds in the crate. Maybe tapped to the top – but USPS if not. With Defensa the test is about $40 and the most expensive treatment is for Heartworm and it is probably only a few hundred dollars in PR (weight of animal determines pricing).
If your vacation time allows, have the animal spayed/neutered before returning to the States. Again, Veterinarian services are less expensive in Puerto Rico
It seems twist ties are not allowed to connect crates as they used to be. Again, each airline is different but we are finding that American and United are now requiring METAL BOLTS that come with newer crates.
Dogs must be able to stand up and turn around in the kennel. Don’t put a big dog in a kennel that is too small for him.
They Airlines may say to put torn up newspaper in the bottom of the kennel to absorb any accidents – this can work but if possible we recommend ‘wee wee pads’ as they don’t have ‘chemicals’ as newspapers might. at the bottom But you can use shredded newspapers and a towel to keep them warm.
Have the agent weigh the dog + crate *before* you put the water and food in/attached to crate. Just a few lbs could save you money if it puts you over a threshold. A large crate with food + water can weigh 30lbs
Attach a zip lock bag with food in it to the top of the kennel
Put an empty bowl in the kennel for food –
Put a bowl for water in the kennel – the water bowl can be frozen the day before this way it lasts the whole trip as it melts OR Attach a hamster water feeder to the outside of the kennel so the animal can drink while in travel if possible. Ask your airlines if this is required – it is not always required but nice if you are able
Again, local Feed Stores have many dog and cat items
Airlines – CALL YOUR AIRLINES – Flights & Rules Change – If you question the answers the Airline Agent gives you, call back to get another Agent or ask for a Supervisor – We find not all Agents know the rules on animal travel.
Check Flight has no weather cancellations BEFORE YOU GO. Animals have regulations on temperature – both at departure and at destination. Sometimes an airline will know way in advance if animals canNOT travel due to heat or cold.
American Cargo out of San Juan – At this time payment can only be made at check-in with a credit or debit card. Get there 2 hours before departure time. Kennel needs to have to dishes (1 for food 1 for water) do NOT fill them – Bring a bottled water – Food in a zip lock – shredded newspaper at the bottom of the kennel if you can’t find wee-wee pads. The toll roads will require $20 at the first toll to purchase a device with a $10 credit on it. $10 should get you to SJU and back. Gas is anywhere from $20 to $40 depending on your car.
Jet Blue (Pet Travel 1-800-JETBLUE or 1-800- 538-2583) departs from Aguadilla (BQN) a limited amount of animals may travel in a plane, each with an escort. Since animals are not placed in cargo, they must be small enough to fit under the passenger seat. Cost is approximately $100 per animal although cost may change without notice
From American Airlines Nov 2015 “In an ongoing effort to protect the safety and well-being of your animals; American Airlines issued a permanent embargo on all breeds of snub-nosed dogs and cats. American Airlines no longer accepts the following brachycephalic, snub-nosed or mixed breeds of snub-nosed animals:” Dogs:
Boxer (All breeds)
Bulldog (All breeds)
Dogue De Bordeaux
English Toy Spaniel
Mastiff (All breeds)
Pug (All breeds)