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This is how a story about taking pets on holiday looked in the Daily Mail newspaper.
The jet set pets: From cats and dogs to horses – and even
ferrets – taking pets on holidays is the latest middle-class trend
By ALISON SMITH SQUIRE
on 25th June 2010
Tracy and Colin Wood are setting off on a roadtrip to Norway in their luxury £37,000 motorhome in a fortnight. In readiness, they have prepared all the clean sheets they could possibly need, books to keep them occupied and a suitcase full of toys, games and cushions.
But the exacting preparations are not for their two children (who, incidentally, are now grown up). Instead, the specially adapted vehicle is a holiday home not just for them, but also for their two – rather spoilt – cats, Sugar and Sandoy.
Trend: A plethora of specialist companies that will organise your pet’s travel for you have recently sprung up
And Sugar and Sandoy are particularly well travelled. They have been all around Europe- including to France, Germany and Switzerland. This will be Sugar’s 16th holiday abroad and her brother Sandoy’s 30th.
‘Sugar and Sandoy would hate to be abandoned in a cattery,’ says Tracy, 42, of Sherburn, North Yorkshire, who works with husband Colin, 42, in his engineering business.
‘However good their stay might be, I just know both of them would miss us terribly. and our holidays aren’t the same without having them there to enjoy it with us.’
In fact, one of the reasons the Woods splashed so much cash on their motorhome was because of its ‘potential’ to allow them to travel with their cats in style.
‘They get incredibly excited when they see us packing up the motorhome, always purring excitedly,’ she says.
‘For a few hundred pounds, Colin adapted the bunkbed area of the motorhome and turned it into a cat’s paradise- with toilet facilities, a place for them to eat, toys for them to play with and even special seat belts.
‘Their little faces say it all. They love staring out of the window as we go along. They are so well travelled we are running out of spaces for stamps on their pet passports.’
Tracy does admit, though, that some are surprised to discover she and Colin take their cats on holiday: ‘People we’ve met have insinuated that they think we’re cruel to take them with us.’
But while most of Britain’s pets probably don’t travel in such opulence, it would appear that the Woods are part of a growing trend of owners who simply won’t be parted from their animals during the holiday season- and who can’t help but indulge their jet-set pets.
According to Eurotunnel, ever since the pet passport scheme was introduced ten years ago, more than 475,000 pets have travelled across the channel with them alone.
‘Ever since the pet passport scheme was introduced ten years ago, more than 475,000 pets have travelled across the channel with Eurostar alone’
This statistic does not even take into account the number of pets travelling in and out of Britain by ferry and plane.
Meanwhile, a quick search reveals a plethora of specialist companies that have recently sprung up and which will organise your pet’s travel for you.
Companies such as animal airlines, Petair UK, Jets4Pets and Jet Set Pets- to name just a few- will arrange everything from collection of your pet from your home to going through customs and travelling to any part of the world. Dogs Away will even plan your pet’s travel through Europe.
‘Once, taking a pet abroad was something only celebrities did and at first we only took a few animals a week,’ says Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe. ‘Now, during peak holiday times we will take in excess of 100 a day.
‘As the holiday season gets under way, we are expecting a bumper few weeks, with cats, dogs and an increasing number of horses travelling to and from France with their owners.
‘It may sound bizarre, but I have actually seen a number of ferrets travelling recently. They’re intelligent animals and they really seem to enjoy the travelling experience.
‘People can also take guinea pigs, mice, chinchillas, birds, reptiles and insects without needing a pet passport- although they must be declared at British Frontier control.’
A father-of-one and the owner of a Jack Russell and a Border Terrier, Mr Keefe regularly takes his own pets abroad: ‘Quite apart from the joy of having the dogs with us, it works out cheaper than putting them in kennels.’
However, while this may sound like a rather more fun solution than leaving your animals at home, there are very strict rules UK owners have to follow.
Getting a pet passport is relatively easy- you can apply for one at any approved vet and it costs around £150.
One of the requirements is having your pet microchipped. This is a tiny chip, inserted between the shoulder blades, containing your animal’s name, medical history and owner’s address so that it can be scanned and identified at border control. Then the pet must be vaccinated against rabies.
Pampered: Tracy Wood takes her prize Norwegian Forrest cats with her on holidays in a £37,000 motorhome
Once a blood test a month later confirms your pet is rabies immune, your passport is granted- although most travellers are advised to wait another six months to be absolutely certain that no rabies-related infections develop. However, while this may sound relatively simple, once you’ve been on your holidays getting back into the country involves even more paperwork. So 24 hours before your flight, ferry or train back, you need to take your pet to a foreign vet to get it de-wormed and de-flead even if it is already healthy. Only once that is in order can you proceed on your journey home.
‘If your papers are in order you’ll go straight through customs,’ explains Mr Keefe.
‘But if something isn’t quite right then we will turn you away. Occasionally, as no checks are made on pets going out of the UK on the Eurotunnel or by ferry, people have no idea their pets need a passport.
‘So they will travel out on a day-trip to France, only to find the pet is not allowed back to the UK. Without a valid passport, the pet will go into six months’ quarantine.
‘Sometimes, very rarely, the microchip fails and cannot be read. This means we can’t identify the animal properly. Usually a different scanner or an X-ray locates it, but if it cannot be found the animal is turned away.’
This is the travelling pet owner’s nightmare, and three years ago it befell solicitor Richard Birtwistle and his wife Jane, 35, a teacher, when their chocolate Labrador Coco was forced into quarantine after her microchip failed.
‘Leaving Coco in France and coming home without her was absolutely terrible,’ recalls Richard, 37, of Bury, Greater Manchester, who has three children with Jane- Joshua, four, Max, two, and Noah, four months.
‘We’d had the most fantastic holiday with her. The French are very laid back about dogs and they are allowed into most hotels and restaurants.
‘The whole point of taking our dog on holiday was she was with us. So to have to leave her behind when we got to Calais was heartbreaking. Jane and I were both in tears and it ruined our holiday.’
Coco had a valid passport, but officials at the port were unable to get the microchip to scan and she was refused entry to the UK.
Richard recalls: ‘We tried to negotiate with officials, but they wouldn’t budge. In desperation we drove to Dunkirk and found a vet who would operate on Coco and find the chip.
‘It took major surgery to recover the chip and, as Jane and I both had to go back to work, we didn’t have any choice but to leave her on the operating table at the French vet’
‘It was then hoped it could be scanned and she would be allowed through. But it took major surgery to recover the chip and, as Jane and I both had to go back to work, we didn’t have any choice but to leave her on the operating table at the French vet. Even now, it upsets both of us to imagine how distraught Coco must have felt coming round after such an operation to just see strangers.’
However, even after they’d found the chip it still wouldn’t scan, so Coco was sent to French quarantine kennels. ‘The worst part was knowing Coco could be in kennels for six months,’ Richard says.
Fortunately, after sending the chip back to the manufacturers in Spain, the identification number was retrieved and after two weeks Coco was allowed home.
‘It was such an emotional reunion. Coco went wild to see us, wagging her tail and barking excitedly. But she’d obviously been through a trauma, as she was clingy for weeks and fretted if there was any sign she’d be separated from us.’
The whole debacle cost the Birtwistles in excess of £3,000 and they are currently suing the vet who inserted the chip and the chip’s manufacturers. Incredibly, this hasn’t put the family off taking their dog on holiday with them.
Richard says: ‘Coco is like one of our own children. The boys adore her and she loves coming away with us- it’s a holiday for her too. We wouldn’t dream of not taking her with us.’
But if you thought taking pets on a train was complicated enough, it’s nothing compared to the stress and dangers of taking your beloved companion on a plane.
Once again, Britain has some of the toughest animal laws in the world regarding flying with pets. Only a handful of UK airports and some airlines hold the special government licence required to carry pets on a flight. Then, on returning to the UK, apart from guide dogs (which are sometimes allowed in the cabin), your cat or dog must travel as ‘cargo’ in the hold by law.
The fact they can’t simply book a seat next to them in the cabin for their cat or dog might come as a shock to many pet owners. Travelling pet owner’s nightmare: Micro-chip identity tags can require major surgery to remove. But, according to a spokesman from Jet Set Pets, a specialist pet travel company: ‘The cargo hold is pressurised, heated and situated below the passenger cabin.
‘Over a million pets fly safely this way every year and we find after they have been loaded into their air kennels, pets soon settle down to the journey and fall asleep.’
Flying with your pet, however, does not come cheap and is likely to cost much more than your own flight-possibly even your whole holiday.
As well as ensuring you have all the relevant paperwork, such as a pet passport, you will need to buy an approved container for the animal to rest in during the flight. Then the cost of travel is calculated by weight of your pet plus its container. So, for example, the cost of flying a small dog to Spain is approximately £800 return.
And stories abound, particularly in the U.S. where flying with cats and dogs is more common, of a much-treasured pet becoming lost baggage- or even dying. This month, an eight-week-old puppy was sent by a U.S. airline to California instead of Maine. He was returned to his owner after being in his crate for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, in February, an English bulldog was found frozen to death in the hold after the flight he was on landed at New York’s JFK Airport. They are the sort of tales that widow Phyllis Tyson, 68, tries not to think about when she flies on holiday to Spain with her pet cat Anna, a chocolate Siamese.
She says: ‘My biggest worry as the plane engines roar and we race down the runway for take off is: “Is Anna on this flight with me?” Once, as I took my seat on the plane, I saw her carrier being loaded on before we took off. It was such a relief because I knew for sure she was definitely on board.’
Phyllis, a retired guesthouse owner from Harrogate, has travelled abroad with Anna for the past three years to her small bungalow in Malaga, Spain. Indeed, not only has Anna travelled thousands of miles in her short life, but she has had nearly £5,000 worth of airfares lavished on her.
Phyllis says: ‘I have left Anna in a cattery before, but she suffers terribly from separation anxiety. Like many Siamese cats, she is very attached to me and we’re very close. If we’re apart, she can get herself into such an anxious state she doesn’t eat. One cattery had such a nightmare they were reduced to force-feeding Anna with a syringe.
They then said she was such a worry, they simply couldn’t care for her any more. Sometimes I go to stay in my bungalow for a few months. Until I discovered I could take her abroad with me, I was looking at either selling my bungalow or re-homing Anna. Both scenarios were unthinkable.’
Her daughter then suggested getting Anna a pet passport and taking her with her.
Phyllis says: ‘Taking Anna to Spain has been fantastic. I must admit it’s always hard saying goodbye to Anna when she goes into cargo and I am always incredibly relieved to see she’s arrived safely at the other end.
‘But flying is incredibly convenient. Also, she never seems to suffer any ill effects from the flight and settles really quickly, whether she is in the Spanish bungalow or at home in the UK. The only drawback is the cost- around £1,000 per round trip- but then if I put her in a cattery for months or paid a pet sitter, the cost would be about the same.’
She admits some people find it odd she takes her cat abroad. ‘For some reason, people seem to think their pets must be happier in a cattery or kennels.I find it odd the way some vets say cats are better off left at home, when that home is somewhere completely strange with people they don’t know looking after them. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Anna loves her holidays abroad. In fact, I think she looks forward to the trip and change of scenery as much as I do.’