/ Travel & Leisure

Is it time to loosen our collars on pet travel?

Pet travel

Pets are like family for many people, but options are limited if you want to take them abroad.

With winter finally behind us, thoughts turn to summer holidays and, if you’re a pet owner like me, what to do with your animals if you’re heading abroad to escape the vagaries of the British weather.

For some it’s as simple as asking a neighbour to pop by and feed the cat, or leaving the dog in a trusted boarding kennel or with a dogsitter. But if your pet is such an important part of the family that you wouldn’t dream of leaving it behind while you have all the fun, or the kennel fees are so extortionate they would cost almost as much as your own holiday, then sometimes it’s preferable to take them with you.

Travelling with pets

If you’re a driver, the ferry is one option – but rules on where your dog stays during the crossing depend on the ferry company. The Eurotunnel is another route. As with the ferries, you have to comply with a host of rules on pet passports, microchips and vaccinations – but at least your dog (and cats, rabbits, ferrets and even some pet birds) can travel in the car with you.

But what if you’re not driving? UK airlines won’t allow pets in the cabin. They can travel in the hold, but that’s the owners’ call. Eurostar is the only train service in the UK that doesn’t let pets on board, apart from guide dogs. When Which? Travel magazine asked why, Eurostar said its stations don’t have the facilities needed to ensure an animal’s safe transit between international borders.

Of course, the safety and comfort of passengers – whether two or four-legged – is paramount, however they’re travelling. But it does seem unfair that non-drivers have so few options.

Time for a new approach?

Personally, I wouldn’t relish the thought of being on a plane with someone’s terrier yapping next to me, or passengers having to squeeze past someone with a crate if there’s an urgent safety issue.

But given that Eurostar already accepts and handles the paperwork for guide dogs, surely this could be extended to all pets? Especially seeing as a journey from London to Paris or Brussels is actually quicker than taking the train to the Lake District or West Country.

Would it hurt if we all loosened our collars a little and tried a new approach?


I am not affected by most dogs, but have an allergy to some and have to leave promptly if one has been in a room recently. In the same way we cater for people with food intolerance and allergies, we need to consider that some have a problem with pets.

I agree with you wavechange.

If Eurostar accept pets for travel they need to be in dedicated compartments where the whole family could sit together.

Sitting near a cat could ruin my day. The only antihistamine that works for me also sends me to sleep. Supposing I was collecting a car at the end of my journey, I would have to wait until the next day otherwise there would be a good chance of me falling asleep at the wheel.

It does not help when owners say that I won’t be allergic to their dog. Even I don’t know, but I will in a few minutes time. 🙁 There is a growing understanding that a few people have to be careful to avoid certain foods but since reaction to pets is usually minor, genuine allergies don’t seem to be well understood.

Separate compartments seem like a good idea, Alfa.

I am an infrequent rail traveller, about once per month. However it does appear that the number of passengers travelling with dogs is on the increase. Unfortunately on each of my last three journeys I have witnessed selfish owners who have had little regard for the comfort of other passengers. One allowed their large dog to lie in the aisle for the whole journey, the second owned a very smelly barking dog, and the third allowed theirs to occupy a seat both sitting and lying down. Despite having all tickets checked, the train managers in each case did not intervene or enforce the ‘no dogs on seats’ rule. Before taking issue with this rule perhaps those who disagree should observe which part of the dog’s anatomy is in intimate contact with the seat when in a sitting position. Therefore, while I am sympathetic with Peter’s suggestions, I think certain actions are required before any relaxation of the current rules are considered. The rail train staff should take prompt action to prevent any discomfort to other passengers and enforce current rules without having to be asked. Separate carriages should be supplied for passengers with pets as this would serve two purposes. Firstly it would remove any potential problem for those passengers who prefer animal free travel, and secondly probably the best people to assist in maintaining reasonable behaviour by a minority of selfish owners are the majority of responsible owners. A separate area for pets would also be an opportunity to provide a service to make their journey more comfortable.

You have my sympathies Wavechange & Alfa and Popeye raises a very valid point about hygiene so could we also have Family carriages or Adult only carriages as I do not want to sit on a seat that has been trampled on by a small child who probably also had sticky fingers.

But surely specialist carriages will mean further crowding potential as normal travellers avoid them. I suppose ordinary travellers could use them also but then there may be problems for later joining families or pet owners.

Seems an unwieldy and uneconomic suggestion from the rail companies view.

There are plenty of irritants other than pets on public transport as has been pointed out – unruly children (I like children but not their parents when they do not keep them properly controlled), noisy people particularly loudly addressing their mobile phones or with leaky headphones, smelly people, nut hey, this is what life is and I don’t suppose it will change.

There are reasons why accommodating pets on overseas travel might be difficult or unwise. You know these rules when you take on a pet, so if it is so important to you perhaps you should consider holidaying in the UK. Good for the economy and Which? Travel mag shows how many delightful places there are to explore.

I take holidays in the UK. As Malcolm says there is a lot to explore and there are none of the uncertainties of overseas travel. It’s not always easy for allergy sufferers to find pet-free accommodation, so when booking I ensure that there will be no pets there in the previous week. Overseas visitors are good news for me because they don’t bring pets.

For some childless couples, pets can provide the answer to ones nurturing instincts and fill a void in their lives. My son has 2 dogs but no children and when taking a holiday they usually rent a dog friendly cottage somewhere in this country, travelling by car. They never venture abroad with them.

Perish the thought that dogs are allowed to sit on train seats! Until dog owners are required to wipe their butts (the dogs!) with anti-septic wipes before boarding a public vehicle they should be confined to a separate carriage or banned from travelling on public transport altogether.

I am an animal lover, but they should be treated as such and not as humans but my sympathies do go with couples who are not able to produce children of their own.

I always take my golden retriever with me to Europe on holiday, and the bit of collar loosening I would like to see concerns the need for a vet to administer a worming tablet within a 5 day window prior to arrival in the UK…… Now while my dog will happily eat a tablet I give her when she is not feeling stressed, in the presence of the vet, however kind, and whatever tasty morsels the tablet is embedded in, the dog clamps her mouth shut and heads for the door. Consequently every return trip is fraught with anxiety……
Interestingly Europe does not require proof of worming before admittance….. It’s a bit of UK red tape that’s the problem in this case. Not that I disagree with keeping nasty parasites out of the U.K….. I just wish I could give the tablet to the dog myself away from the vets.

Ian says:
4 May 2016

Stringent restrictions have kept rabies out of the UK. Long may that continue.

Brendan says:
11 May 2016

A designated carriage on Eurostar or a separate off peak service could be a solution. Too whom should I write?

I wrote to Which a few years ago about Airlines and paying for cat travel. British Airways offer the service but it was more than £500 in each direction (Tenerife) and was handled by a third party. Norwegian Airlines charged approx £60 for travel (but not to Tenerife). I wrote to Norwegian airways to ask why they didn’t allow pets to Tenerife (no answer) and also to BA on why they were not running the pet travel themselves and did they know that the 3rd (parties) were charging over £500. again no answer. I though BA might want to ‘lead the way’ in pet travel. I cannot see why pets cannot travel in the main aircraft if a dedicated area was available? But as you say, currently it is not.

I agree, pet travel should be made easier. I am sure it would be very lucrative for them!! Jayne

m4rge says:
23 May 2016

3 years ago I flew from Madrid to Lima. I had to sit on the plane next to a Spanish woman who had her small dog in a cage on the floor at our feet. (She did try to stow it in the overhead locker at first !!!) Nobody asked me if I minded this dog being there. Nobody seemed to mind when the dog whimpered and struggled to turn round in the cage. I wasn’t happy and I don’t think the dog was.
When I checked later I discovered that a number of airlines allow dogs.

We would be very uncomfortable on a long flight if there was a dog in the vicinity, and not very happy on a short one. It is not fair on other passengers to allow it. The airlines make a lot of money from carrying pets but they don’t discount the adjacent seat prices!

I assume your flight was from Madrid [Spain] to Lima [Peru]; several hours – that’s a long time for a dog to go without needing to go. Oh well.

We have two dogs that we take on holiday in the car via euro tunnel. What I object to is the £30 per dog each way that we are surcharged for this. I accept that the pets passport requires that upon our return we have to have them checked to see that they have had tapeworm treatment as a preventative measure. But what is effectively £60 for checking the microchip corresponds and inspection of the pet passport is astronomical. We don’t not use the ferries as the dogs would have to either remain in the car or be caged which we don’t want to do.

I would not subject air passengers to having a pet with us as not all people like cats and dogs, also there are plenty of badly behaved pets. Just like some children.

Lets put all this in perspective. It’s animals we are talking about, not human beings. Pet owners who want to take their pets alongside them on planes or trains are being entirely selfish as they have no consideration for their fellow human passengers. What about people with severe allergies or phobia’s? What about the smell and noise? Pets should not be travelling alongside other passengers and if owners are not happy with that then they shouldn’t travel. Holiday in the UK instead! I speak as dog owner for 15yrs and wouldn’t dream of taking my dog to Majorca on holiday with me!

Thanks Arthur. I have a problem with some dogs but not others. Within a matter of minutes I know whether I’m going to be affected. Perhaps keeping people with pets in a separate area would be more acceptable than a ban on pets. The ban on smoking has helped me enormously, though all I had expected was separate rooms for smokers and non-smokers.