Choosing the right crate will make dog transport and other pet travel much simpler. Your animal will be safe and secure, and having an IATA-approved crate will prevent denials and delays at the check-in counter. Pet travel policies usually are standard among airlines but each airline may have slightly different standards on crates, so check with them beforehand. As a general rule, however, your crate should meet all of the following general requirements:

Materials: Airline-approved materials for pet shipping crates must be rigid, sturdy and solid. Fiberglass, metal, rigid plastic and metal mesh are, in general, all approved for animal transportation. Solid wood is also accepted by many airlines, but some will refuse it, so it is important to check beforehand.

Size: You carrier should be just large enough for your pet to sit down, stand up, turn around and lie back down without touching the sides. has a helpful guide for measuring your pet’s physical dimensions and converting them into a standard crate size.

Door and Sides: Crate doors must latch securely with spring-loaded latches, and the latch pins must extend 5/8 in. beyond the horizontal protrusions located above and below the door. It is also strongly recommended that you use a crate with a metal door and steel hardware. Make sure that the door is nose- and paw- proof to prevent injury to your pet. We also suggest that you secure the corners of the door with cable ties.

In addition to being made of sturdy, airline-approved material, the sides should be well-ventilated and should not be collapsible. It is required that two sides have ventilation for domestic flights and that four sides have ventilation for international flights. We recommend that you choose a crate with a solid roof—no top door or ventilation. There should also be handles on the long sides of the crate.

Interior: The crate should have a solid, leak-proof bottom and no interior protrusions or handles that could bump and injure your pet. Cover the bottom with a layer of absorbent cloth (such as training pads) and secure food and water bowls to the inside of the front door where they can be refilled without opening the crate. Do not include any hard toys or other objects that could hurt your animal while they are in transport.

Labels: Make a label with your pet’s name and your home and cell phone numbers, the destination address and phone number, emergency contact information, your pet’s medical conditions and nutritional needs (if any) and a recent picture of your pet. Laminate the label and attach it to the crate with duct tape. Attach medical and travel documents, as well, and attach a leash to the outside if you can.

We recommend that you purchase your crate a few months in advance of your flight so you can train your pet to get used to being in it for long periods of time. If you need help, Animals Away can help you select the proper crate and offer more useful advice on how to prepare your pet for travel.