Ready to go in July, we had been surprised by the need for a medical certificate for HB, but by early August we had his test results back, and although we were still waiting on permits for the dogs, we decided it was time for HB to depart. Getting a person and his baggage on a plane is not a big deal; getting the dogs from Punta Gorda to Tortola was a bit more involved.
We worked with an IPATA (Independent Pet and Animal Transport Association) certified company, the Transpetters, to help us coordinate the flights. Although it was a bit costly, I'm really glad we worked with them, as they helped us navigate all the details of moving dogs by plane.
There are really three options for flying with dogs: 1) take them as carry-on luggage; 2) take them as checked luggage; 3) ship them as cargo. Only dogs that can fit in a carrier that in turn fits under the seat in front of you may be taken as carry-on luggage, so this was not an option for Flash and Roscoe. In order to take dogs as checked luggage, an owner or handler must be on the flight the dogs are on. As we were booking dog flights and my flight with only a few weeks' notice,the Transpetters recommended we ship the dogs as cargo, in order to not have to try to coordinate flights for both of us.
Additionally, most airlines will not allow pets to fly as checked luggage or as cargo when the forecast temperature for the departure or arrival airport is higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Additional restrictions are applied to specific breeds, like pugs or certain long-haired dogs. Since we were moving in mid-August from Florida to the Caribbean, this created a major problem. We were less than a week from our scheduled departure date when the airline the Transpetters had been working with told us they couldn't transport Roscoe and Flash because of these restrictions.
Scrambling at the last minute, the Transpetters were able to find new flights for the dogs, but they would have to spend the night in Atlanta. In the wake of recent news coverage of dogs being lost or dying while being transported by commercial airlines, this twist made HB and me very nervous. After several long conversations with the Transpetters, and weighing all possible options, including driving the dogs to Atlanta myself, we decided the easiest thing for the dogs would be the overnight stay at airline HQ, so on August 17, I said goodbye to Roscoe and Flash and crossed my fingers that I would see them in St. Thomas the next day.