Pet owners traveling with loved ones in the cargo hold are often anxious about the journey.
And while pet mistreatment aboard airlines usually makes headlines, the latest figures released by the Department of Transportation confirm that pet travel is overwhelmingly safe these days.
Last year, U.S. airlines reported a total of 17 pet fatalities and 26 injuries when transporting animals. Compare that to 2011 figures where 35 pet deaths were reported.
In 2014, only Delta and United lost pets—each carrier reporting just one incident. But overall, United reported the highest number of incidents with five deaths and 13 injuries.
Though these statistics may frighten any worried pet owner, the chances of something happening to Fido inflight are very, very small. The Department of Transportation reported that two million animals fly each year in the U.S.—meaning the chance of loss, injury or death is about 1 in 45,000.
So what should pet owners do to make flying safer for their animals?
Owners should always microchip pets to prevent loss on land or in the skies. GPS trackers may seem like a good idea but if an animal manages to escape the device, it will prove useless.
Animal care experts at the Humane Society also recommend travelers invest in a quality carrier for their pet—one that can not easily be chewed through or unlatched easily. When possible, it also recommended to book pets on direct flights to avoid mishandling at multiple stops. Passengers should also be aware of extreme weather conditions at arrival or departure destinations as pets transported in cargo will likely be exposed to the elements at some point throughout the journey.
And though it may be impossible to predict exactly how a dog or cat will react at 35,000 feet, owners should also do their best to ensure a pet is in good health and can handle the potential stress of flying.
Below are the full results from the Department of Transportation calculated by airline.