There are different rules for pitbulls that accompany passengers in the plane and pits that ride in the cargo area. The Department of Transportation (DOT) of the United States recently issued a ruling prohibiting airlines from denying boarding to dogs based on their breed. This includes pitbulls or other pitbull-type breeds. They do need to qualify as an emotional support animal or ESA however.

Pitbull playing in a pool ready to play

According to the ruling effective Jan 11th 2021, any breed of dog may accompany passengers on a plane. There are no other species of emotional support animals allowed. 

There is a link to an executive summary of the ruling at the bottom of the article. 

Despite this ruling some airlines, in order to protect themselves and their passengers have put in place documentation requirements so that dog owners have to prove there is a real need and that that particular dog is capable of meeting that need.

It’s understandable. There had been an increase in the number of airline passengers bringing all kinds of service and emotional support animals with them as they flew. People were bringing turkeys, snakes, pigs and other species.

All this to say that I definitely suggest calling your airline and making sure you know the latest restrictions and requirements regarding your specific flight and circumstances. 

Disclaimer – Please consult with your airline for the most up-to-date information in regards to their breed restrictions, crate requirements and your flight.

Here are a few of the biggest airlines and links to their pet policies online and contact info for them so you can check right now. I have also addressed a few specific ones below.

Tips for flying with your pitbull

1 – Buy your tickets early

One of the best ways to avoid paying too much for your dog’s ticket is to book their flight sooner rather than later. And airlines have a limit to how many dogs they will allow on each flight so if you don’t book early there’s a chance your dog won’t be able to fly with you.

2 – Book a nonstop flight – no layovers

Flying is stressful for your pitbull, as it is for any animal. The fewer transitions the better. It will help them to just have one flight to make it through and not two. It might cost a little more but is the best thing for your canine. And it ensures they won’t accidentally get put on the wrong second flight too.

Also Read: Best Airline Approved Dog Carriers For In Cabin

3 – A checkup, vaccinations and all the paperwork

Schedule a check-up with your pet’s veterinarian 10 days before your departure. Make sure they are current on their shots and vaccinations. Then make sure to get documentation of your visit, their health and vaccines. This may be required by your airline and helpful to you in some of the hotels and businesses you visit along your travels.

I go more in-depth about this in my pitbull travel tips article here. ((link))

4 – Buy a crate for them to travel in

Your situation and the airline you are flying with will determine if you will need a crate and if it will need to be hard or soft-sided. I have collected information here about the major U.S. carriers and a few of the international ones too. Check it out. ((link))

A number of airlines now require a IATA CR 82 Crate for larger dogs or bully breeds.

5 – ID tags on your carrier

Once you’ve purchased the carrier, you need to write the dog’s name and yours on it, and also provide identification tags that include your address, phone number, and the contact information of someone who can reach you at your destination.

Here are a couple great tags you can use. ((links to amazon products))

6 – Keep a few pics of your pooch with you

Take some photos on your phone of your pitbull so if you were to become separated for any reason or you needed to show someone what your dog looks like you could do so easily.

7 – Try a dry run

Get your dog used to being in his carrier by putting him in his carrier around your home and even for car rides a few times before you leave. This will help them become familiar with it before the big day which will reduce stress during your travels. 

8 – Food, water and exercise

It’s best to feed them before your flight with enough time to get some exercise and relieve themselves before they get in their crate and board the plane. And they can have water right up until they get on the plane.

If you normally feed them in the morning and get them out for a walk in the morning, just keep to that routine. It can be good to leave their food and water dish in their crate so airline staff can give them additional food or water if they need to because the flight is delayed for some extended amount of time.

Definitely make sure your dog has had some good exercise before you head for the airport and you stop and let them relieve themselves as well on the nearest patch of grass before you head into the airport.

9 – Get there early

Don’t arrive at the airport too early, but arrive early enough to deal with any unforeseen issues that might arise. When traveling with your pet, most airlines recommend arriving two hours before your flight. You’ll want to check-in at the counter with all your documentation from your recent vet visit.

10 – Don’t do drugs

Veterinary professionals recommend that you do not give tranquilizers or sedatives to your dogs before they fly. These drugs can exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular issues when your dog is subjected to increased altitude. You don’t want to risk it.

11 – Play again right when you arrive

Take your pit for a long walk when you arrive at your destination, before getting into a cab or checking into a hotel… and give them water as well! Taking care to exercise and hydrate your pup will make sure they have what they need to start their trip on the right foot.

Some frequently asked questions

Are pitbulls banned in Australia?

In Australia, there is a ban on aggressive dog breeds that were bred specifically for fighting. This includes American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs) and other Pitbull breeds. The intention of the ban is to protect other people and their pets.

Can you bring a pitbull to Europe?

Yes, you can bring a pitbull to Europe. When traveling across the pond, you should bring your pitbull in line with European regulations by getting an international standard microchip and making sure it’s up-to-date on its shots. This needs to happen at least 21 days and no more than 12 months before your trip.

Can pitbulls fly on Delta?

Currently, pitbulls aren’t welcome as service animals on Delta Air Lines. However, they have reversed a ban on bringing emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours. Call them to get the most up to date information on their policies.

Related: ‘Can I Pet That Dog?’ (Funniest Video)

What dogs are banned from flying?

Various breeds that are deemed too aggressive for public safety may be banned on the airline you are looking to fly with. Here is the contact info for your specific airline. ((link))

Are pit bulls banned from flying?

No, pitbulls are not banned from flying. You may have heard about Delta Airlines announcing that they prohibited pitbulls from flying onboard whether they were legitimate service or emotional support animals or not, but they changed that two years later. There are a number of carriers that do allow pitbulls to fly either in the cargo or onboard.

What airline can I fly with my pitbull?

A few airlines that accept pitbull breeds: Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Airlines. Check here ((link)) for additional pet info for the airline you are flying with. Take a look at the pet page on their site. And if you would rather call them, I have included a contact phone number as well.

Does Alaska Airlines allow pit bulls?

Alaska Airlines does allow pitbulls in the cabin with you. They need to stay completely in their crate from when you get to the boarding area through your flight and till you get out of the gate after you deboard the plane. They aren’t allowed to sit in a seat either.

They must be on the floor for the entirety of the flight and under the seat in from of you for taxing, take-off and landing. This would prohibit your bringing your pit if it is larger.

Does southwest allow pit bulls?

Yes, Southwest Airlines does allow pitbulls, however, animals aren’t allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights. If your itinerary includes an international flight, they won’t allow your pit either.

Does JetBlue allow pit bulls?

JetBlue does not accept any animals as checked baggage or as cargo on any of their flights. Only small cats and dogs are permitted as pets on these flights. All pets must be brought on board the aircraft in a suitable carrier.

Does American Airlines allow pit bulls?

It is one of the breeds that aren’t allowed on American Airlines to have in the cabin. Here is an article I wrote with contact info and the pets page on their website for you to double-check and get the most up-to-date info on flying with your pitbull on American.

What size dog will fit under an airplane seat?

Most airlines require you to use a hard-sided or soft-sided kennel to transport your pet in the cabin, and it must fit under the seat in front of you. It will need to be there with the door securely closed for the duration of the flight. A dog that can fit in one of those carriers will fit under an airplane seat and can fly with you. Below are the max dimensions of a crate that will fit.

Look for hard-sided kennels that are a max size of 17.5 inches x 12 inches x 7.5 inches, or 44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm.

I will be adding more helpful information and frequently asked questions to this article in the coming days… I hope it has been helpful to you.

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2021 DOT ruling about Emotional Support Animals

IATA regulations for airlines and countries