North America Pet Travel Spotlight: Everything You Need to Know About Breed Restrictions

North America Pet Travel Spotlight Part Four

Along with the challenges we've previously covered in our North America Pet Travel Series, another big obstacle for many pet travelers involves breed restrictions.

Many of these rules are important because they're set with a pet's safety in mind (snub-nosed pets are simply more likely to experience complications when traveling, for example), but they can often be confusing and make pet travel even more stressful for conscientious pet owners trying to figure everything out.

The more you know, the more prepared you'll be for overcoming breed related roadblocks. Read more about various breeds and how they can or can't travel within the United States and nearby. Our experts are here to help!

Effective June 18, 2018, United Airlines will not accept reservations for brachycephalic (or short- or snub-nosed) dogs and cats and strong-jawed dog breeds*, out of concern for higher adverse health risks. See their full list of restrictions here.

The Basics

Before we begin to examine specific breed issues, remember these helpful tips:

  • Always consult your vet before you plan to travel with your pet in order to address any concerns. Wellness checks and taking the time to ask a few questions are never a bad idea.

  • This is true for all breeds, but it's worth reiterating because it's especially important for snub-nosed breeds: working to acclimate your pet to the travel crate well before it's time to move can help relieve stress and make the trip safer overall.

  • Choose a pet safe airline. Carriers like United and Delta have dedicated pet programs and don't fly pets via excess baggage. Read up on our cargo pet travel guide to find out why this is the mode of travel we choose for our clients and recommend overall.

Snub-Nosed Breeds

Dogs and cats classified as brachycephalic -- this includes short nosed breeds like Pugs, Persian cats, Pekingese, Boxers, Shih Tzus and a few others -- face certain restrictions when it comes to air travel due to the higher probability they will experience breathing problems while traveling. Here's what you need to know:

  • The kennel must also have ventilation on all four sides.

  • Here's more about crate training along with a few more tips for traveling safely with snub-nosed breeds.

  • If you have questions about your dog's breed status and or snub-nosed pet airline policies, contact your Pet Travel Specialist.

Traveling with an English or French Bulldog within the United States? Read on to find out how to make it happen...


Diving deeper into the snub nose breed issue: Bulldogs often face the biggest challenges, particularly when it comes to air travel within the U.S. At this time, pet safe airlines limit or altogether restrict the shipment of Bulldogs.

  • Delta & United Airlines do not accept American, English or French Bulldogs at any time, regardless of age or weight.

  • If you have a Bulldog or a mix of one of these types of Bulldogs, you will have to seek out ground transportation if you want to carry out your domestic U.S. move. (We recommend using to search for a reputable agent who may be able to help you.)

Aggressive Breeds / Other Restricted Breeds

Though this type of regulation seems unnecessary and even unfair to many pet owners, currently it's still the case that breeds sometimes classified as "aggressive" or who have particularly strong builds/jaws must fly a little differently than other breeds.

  • Breeds such as American Staffordshire Terriers, Cane Corso and Pit Bull Terriers must fly in reinforced travel crates if they're over 6 months of age or weigh more than 20 lbs.

  • Reinforced crates must meet International Air Transport Association Requirement #82. 

  • Essentially, reinforced crates can't be made of plastic and the doors must be made of heavy wire mesh, metal or reinforced wood. They should also be able to be closed securely (with no chance of them opening accidentally).

  • Different airlines have different rules, so call the carrier(s) ahead of time to find out what to expect.

Birds, Snakes or Other 'Exotic' Pets

Just like with a dog or cat, you'll need the following for exotic pets:

  • An airline approved travel crate, the correct health paperwork, and any relevant permits.

  • Here's a starting point for how to ship birds safely and a look at what it takes to move fish via air.

  • Again, contact the airline directly and/or your Pet Travel Specialist to find out how to transport your pet safely and smoothly.

Odds and Ends

  • Regardless of breed, United and Delta will not ship puppies younger than 8 weeks old. PetRelocation will not ship puppies younger than 16 weeks old (this company policy ensures pets are strong enough to safely withstand the travel process and old enough to receive vaccinations).

  • Pets should only have access to water while traveling (no food).

  • Old blankets, T-shirts and other absorbent materials are allowed in the crate, but no toys or leashes.

Hopefully this information helps to make sense of your snub-nosed breed travel options, but as always, just let us know if you need some guidance. Safe travels, pet lovers!

This is Part Four of PetRelocation's North America Pet Travel Spotlight. Need help with your pet's relocation? Contact us to connect with a Specialist who can tell you about your move options.

Banner Photo: Andrea Arden/Flickr


PetRelocation Team


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