/ Travel & Leisure

Update: Tales of travelling with my dogs

Pug in box

I come from a family with two major loves: animals and France. Half of my younger years of leisure were spent with numerous creatures. The other half was spent leaving them all behind on countless trips to our house over in western France…

On our returns to Blighty I remember the joy of our various stinking, hoarse and ecstatic dogs when we would go to pick them up from the kennels.

Some of them seemed to love their own mini holiday, some definitely less so. One was banned from all the kennels within a 50-mile radius. One made it into the local paper by running away and ending up in the supermarket. And one used to spend the first few days back at home repeatedly running laps around the garden, and would refuse to come in until all memories of our happy travels without him had faded.

Pet passports and microchips

When pet passports first appeared in the early 2000s, I was pretty excited. Never mind having to now share the back of the car with panting pooches as well as two squabbling sisters.

Sometimes the processes involved were a bit cumbersome. Once, for instance, the five of us had to share a hotel room in Caen with a Rottweiler, terrier and Labrador, because we hadn’t taken them to the vets for their tapeworm treatment in the right 24-to 120-hour window.

But none of that mattered, because now we could take our happy menagerie with us!

It’s even easier now (just a rabies jab at least 21 days before travel, and no more blood tests required for EU dogs). In fact, the last time I travelled with my Scottish terrier Hugo he didn’t even have to get out of the car to get checked. They just handed us the microchip scanner to use ourselves.


My dog Hugo

Which is good, because Hugo is quite the drama king. He hates the vets, he’s not that keen on canine or human strangers, and he really detests kennels. But put him in a car and onto the Channel Tunnel or ferry and he’s a different dog. Incredibly calm. And I guess that’s because he’s with me. When I can’t take him away with me on my travels, he goes to stay with my mum or I get a dogsitter friend to come and keep him company.

Stressed dogs

And from our poll a couple of weeks ago, I know that Hugo isn’t the only dog who hates being left behind. Of those voters who own a dog, 60% said that their dog suffered stress when they’ve left them behind to go on holiday. What about yours?

When you’re booking your latest trip abroad do you paws for thought for your beloved pet? Do you take them with you? And if not, what do you do with them?

[UPDATE 6 APRIL] From today all dogs in the UK are legally required to be microchipped. Compulsory microchipping has been introduced to help reduce the number of stray and missing dogs. Each microchip is linked to a central database containing the registered owner’s details. However, the old-fashioned collar and tag may not be entirely redundant yet. While compulsory microchipping has come into force, compulsory scanning of the microchip has not. Should your pooch go astray, it may be a while before it’s microchip is scanned. So an old-fashioned collar and tag may be a bit quicker at reuniting you both.

ele says:
4 April 2016

i would love a vacation but can’t due to the cost of transporting them to the u.k. i have two small dogs and it would cost about 1,000gbp to get them back to scotland and of course they would not be permitted to do the trip in the one day, they have to nightstop in lgw or lhr and that of course costs more. nevermind the stress for them,. nightstopping is a chore for them. then we have to do the same on the way back. an expensive affair. kennels in europe are not like the u.k. and my two would find it hard to adjust to the open air lodgings. when i last checked, i couldn’t get them directly into scotland.
well, that is a rum deal.
in europe they can more or less free access and would cost a fraction of the cost to transport. why does the u.k. have to make things so difficult?

Ele, I know it sometimes seems unnecessary to put all these ‘obstacles’ in the way but I think the Government is, quite rightly, desperate to keen the dreadful disease Rabies from our shores. In order to do that the restrictions must be applied and I think that, all things considered, it is the correct course to take.
It will inevitably mean that animal owners will be subject to both waiting and expense but if that keeps disease out of the UK then it is all for the best.

Hello, I’m sure you’re all up-to-date on this, but just in case you’re not aware, all dogs over 8 weeks old are now legally required to be microchipped.

Each microchip is linked to a central database containing the registered owner’s details. However, the old-fashioned collar and tag may not be entirely redundant yet. While compulsory microchipping has come into force, compulsory scanning of the microchip has not. Should your pooch go astray, it may be a while before it’s microchip is scanned. So an old-fashioned collar and tag may be a bit quicker at reuniting you both.

What do you think about microchipping? Would you like to see compulsory scanning of the microchip? Or do you think that a collar and tag is sufficient enough to reunite lost dogs with their owners?

If your dog is stolen and gets sold on, then at some stage gets taken to a vet, it won’t be routinely scanned. Why is micro chipping now compulsory and scanning not? It seems a logical move to me.

Lottie says:
6 April 2016

Why not just move to France, lock, stock & dogs?

We here in NI as usual being the guinea pigs have had compulsory chipping for some time
No it is not compulsory to scan the animal but it seems that it is the first thing that is tried in order to identify stray or lost dogs. . . Vet’s, ,dogs trusts etc all have readers
Makes sense once near all dogs have been chipped. .
I say near all because like everything there will always be ones who object. . .
If you want to object, ,fine. . Loose your pooch and try locating the owners because they are quickly seen as scoungers who dont licence their animal and dont care enough about them to ensure their return as should be
Is it a good idea coming from where it is now the accepted norm, , , Yes and it has reunited many a pet and owner
Of course it limits the possibility of having an unlicensed dog or those who let their dogs roam and could be connected to sheep worrying which could both be a reasons to object. .

I’m surprised to read that you still have to licence dogs in Northern Ireland. They were abandoned years ago in England & Wales &, I’m assuming, in Scotland.
I remember my dog having to be licenced in the 1940’s and subsequent dogs too. I believe the licence fee right up to currency decimalisation was always 7s 6d.
Perhaps it’s the cost of dog licencing in N Ireland which results in so many dogs from that region being transported to English dog rescue organisations. For that I’m grateful as my best friend is a Border Collie found in County Armagh 9 years ago and estimated to be a year old by a vet in Lurgan before being transported to a Hertfordshire dog rehoming charity.

Our old large dog has come with us from Scotland to Germany for years. However in the last few years it has become more difficult. We used to travel Hull-Rotterdam with the dog in the car for the duration – he was extremely stressed in their cages. Then the rules changed and he has to go into the kennel cage – he would have a heart attack! Even if we sign a disclaimer, we are not allowed to keep him in the car. Newcastle AMsterdam is too long a journey in the car for him. Therefore we have to drive to Harwich in order that he can stay in the car for the crossing.
As he weighs 25kg, sedating him and lifting him into the kennel cage is not an option.
We are usually in Germany for around eight weeks, hence the reason for taking him 🙂

The magazine article suggests pets should be allowed on Eurostar, planes etc, but the writer seems happily oblivious to the fact that not everyone likes animals, some people have dog phobias and many more have allergies. Why should they all be made uncomfortable or even ill, just because others want to treat their pets like children?

Richard says:
24 May 2016

How about a single train carriage that allows dogs, and occasional flights that allow dogs? Then those who dislike them could simply avoid those.

I agree.
Eurostar Accepts Guide Dogs, so why not have one carriage pre-booked each day, maybe more over high season, for dogs.
They can travel under the same rules as those for the TGV.
Lets start a petition if there is not one already.

Virgin Trains [East Coast and West Coast main lines] accepts two dogs, cats, or other small domestic animals per passenger at no extra charge. Other long-distance operators might have a similar policy. See –

I have experience of pet travel by air, sea and the Channel Tunnel. It is a sorry experience. Flying into and out from France, dogs under 9kg can travel in a soft dog bag in a plane cabin. But this is not allowed when flying into and out from the UK, where all dogs are required to travel in the hold, at enormous expense. The argument is that, for safety, dogs need all to be processed at separate animal facilities at airports. Yet if French airports can do it, and if UK ports and Eurotunnel can do it, why can’t Heathrow and other UK airports? I asked this question of a DEFRA representative and his very honest answer was that flying dogs in the hold and processing them in the special facility at Heathrow is a major income generator for all the organisations involved, so that there is a strong incentive not to change the existing system. That system is a holdover from quarantine days, but with microchips and rabies jabs and pet passports it is a lucrative anachronism which is out of tune with other countries (even the USA) and with other UK ports of entry. It is time to lobby for change.

Turning to Eurostar, much the same arguments apply. Dogs are allowed on other trains in the UK, France and other European countries, so it isn’t a matter of the safety and concerns of other passengers. It comes down to the inadequacy of the outgoing customs facilities at St. Pancras (and in France) – outgoing only, because with Eurostar you are checked both out and ‘in’ by two sets of customs before you get on the train. This actually makes it particularly easy to check animal papers and chips, as any dog that doesn’t comply will be rejected by both the outgoing and receiving customs officials before it ever gets on the train. There is therefore no need for holding kennels or such. Again it’s time to lobby for change.

Taking pets out of the UK if you do not have a car is a nightmare. You have to take a train to Newhaven and catch the ferry to Dieppe. Only one foot passenger per ferry is allowed to take a dog, because the dog is taken away from you at Newhaven, put into a cage in a van, driven onto the ferry and left in the cage in the van during the crossing. As there is only one cage in the van, only one dog per ferry crossing is allowed.

All in all, the arrangements for owners taking pets abroad are truly anachronistic and badly need to be brought into line with other countries.

” All in all, the arrangements for owners taking pets abroad are truly anachronistic and badly need to be brought into line with other countries.”

I suggest Australia then. But not North Korea. China is not much better. ….

On a more serious note it is interesting to see the hoops working coming in:

This site is very full of information on 240 countries all of whom have regulations
but I was a bit shocked to find Monaco is a high-incidence country for rabies!

On a more serious note it is interesting to see the hoops working coming in:

This site is very full of information on 240 countries all of whom have regulations
but I was a bit shocked to find Monaco is a high-incidence country for rabies!

I’m possibly going to be a lone voice here, but I really wonder why folk even want to take their animals on holiday with them. Don’t get me wrong: we both love dogs and even like cats – some of them, anyway – but when we’ve had our own dogs we left them in kennels. They are – after all – animals, with somewhat different behavioural characteristics to humans. For a start, they’re significantly less hygienic and when I see owners who seem to relish dogs licking their faces I sometimes wonder if they ever really watch their animal to see where their tongues have been…

Dogs have evolved to tap into Humans’ herd instinct, which they achieve with remarkable success, but it does seem to me that some humans mistake this natural instinctive behaviour for something else, and feel they can’t bear to be separated from their dog for even a moment, imbuing these semi-feral and extremely unhygienic creatures with human emotions. We do allow many animals to travel – horses among others, and certain Bats – also carriers – can traverse quite large stretches of water. However, 99% of Rabies / Human infections throughout the world arise from dog bites.

So on balance, I think things should remain as they are. If we start making it easier for ‘pets’ to travel, I suspect we’ll soon be seated besides a 550 lb Belted Galloway in economy.

You are not alone Ian. I am with you on this one. Dogs today, it’ll be Gibbons tomorrow if we are not careful.

For historical reasons the Corporation of London [the City under the Lord Mayor, not the Greater London Authority or the respective London Borough Councils] is the Port Authority for the whole of London and operates a very impressive and highly-respected animal centre at Heathrow airport which has succeeded in keeping illegal animal imports, animal diseases and infections, and other risks under control for decades, as well as playing a vital role in ensuring the welfare and proper treatment of animals in transit. Naturally there is significant resistance to any diminution in the role of this establishment.

Ian – You must be one of the few pet owners who appreciates that others may not be happy about them. My problem is that I am allergic to SOME cats and dogs, but I certainly agree with you about the hygiene issue.

Most interested to read your articles on transporting dogs in Which & Which Travel. It seems to me that Which could start trying to get Eurostar to take dogs. As you point out all other train companies do. A survey of dog owners by which Which could get the truth, rather than what Eurostar seem to want you to hear.

On my sixth birthday (25 years ago, to the day!) I was given a white floppy-eared rabbit by my parents. I named him Flopsy Dopsy. I loved him and gave him balloons to play with (perhaps cruel in that they popped as soon as he ‘caught’ them).

This was in Scotland, by the way. (I used to have a strong Ayrshire accent that is long gone now.)

When the time came to move across the border and into the south of England, we took the train. And on that train came my white floppy-eared rabbit, Flopsy Dopsy. I carried him in a little cat box, and he wasn’t the lightest of bunnies for my nine-year-old arms to carry. But once on the train, he was as happy as Larry (Larry Barry?). And what attention he got. Everyone on the carriage wanted to see my white bunny, and Flopsy was relatively relaxed about it too with a regular supply of freshly (slightly wilting) dandelions being fed into his little travel box.

Tired from our long journey from one side of the UK to the other, both Flopsy Dopsy and I slept well that night.

I know a bunny is not a doggy, so I’m sorry for going a bit off-topic, but sometimes travelling with pets can bring as much joy to others as to their owners. 🐰

I think that counts as going off topic to add colour, so is within the rules. Happy birthday, Patrick.

I can recommend hamsters as very portable pets unlikely to cause offence. Durability leaves a lot to be desired.

AHhh, , how lovely. . . .Your going all, , , ,something on us but I enjoyed reading the story
Rabbits were good pets for a child .. . .Fond memories here also

So we learn you had broad Ayrshire accent!!! What a nice place Ayrshire and if I had the accent I’d hold on to it. . . .It can carry you a long way in this world that accent

Happy birthday from Co Antrim also

Aye, the accent was so strong that even my Scottish granny couldn’t understand me. My mother also thought I’d made friends with a freezer at school when I told her my new friend was called ‘Fraser’ – in Scottish, it sounds like ‘Freeser’.

Thank you for the birthday wishes!

I’m sure some of you Which? members remember when Which? reviewed pets. I believe the ‘tortoise’ came out on top as the Bestest Buy. I’m sure no-one would complain if you took one of those on the train.

Freezer could sound a little like that in some parts around here also

But the question is , who was right and who was wrong??
Duncan etc here have a a few goes at this and it is not as straight forward as I would have thought. . .I used to think or I was told by a stuck up lady of an English teacher I was broad and didnt speak well but today I dont agree with this any longer. . . Not after doing business in Birmingham, , Newcastle and many other places in England who have ever bit as strong if not stronger accents to here or your Grannies

We should be proud of our heritage or so we are now told and I’m running with that one

I’ll bet if you go back to South West Scotland it’ll only take a short time to you start to use it again

I can quickly go into “scotty” or “Kiwi” mode, ,all I need is to be surrounded in it. . .I dont however adopt Canadian in the same way

Your too young to remember sub titles on the early English soaps. . .In England for England!

It might beat some trains. When you reviewed pets, did you look at the “durability” of pets? People become very attached to them, so long life should be an important criterion. Parrots, I believe, do live a long time – longer than their owners.

I do wonder how many pets, though, actually enjoy being such. Many live a very lonely life if they are a singleton. Is this the best sort of existence for an animal, bird or fish? This question is being asked of zoos as well – is it the bestenvironment for animals, even if endangered? Personally I would hate to see zoos disappear. They are research and conservation organisations as well as public attractions.

And why do we think scratching and stroking animals is something they enjoy. Any facts about this (I used to hate being patted when I was small).

Again, I think it was the durability factor that gave the Tortoise a high score.

I had a tortoise as a pet when I was a young child. It was put in a box to hibernate, though I cannot recall why my mother or father decided to put the box upstairs. One day when the cold weather had abated there was a loud thud. The tortoise had awakened and fallen downstairs. It seemed unharmed but was kept downstairs over the following winters. My impression is that tortoises are durable but would not advocate further drop tests.

A thought: would taking a dog to North Korea count as a packed lunch?

Richard says:
24 May 2016

I’m a dog owner who is sympathetic to others who dislike dogs, but there is a simple solution to the problem on trains: Dedicated carriages. If train companies (including Eurostar) had a single carriage that allowed dogs/pets, then those who didn’t like them could easily choose a different carriage. We have quiet carriages. Why not pet carriages?

Lina says:
31 May 2016

I have suggested that to Eurostar! Who said there wasn’t enough interest in pet travel on their trains!!! So the more people who contact them the better!