Dogs often look worried and stressed as their owners pack to go on holiday. And that departure – with or without the pooch – needs careful planning. Pauline Baker offers some advice
For some dogs, of course, their owner’s holiday plans can have a very dark side. Says Andrée Alziari-Negre, who holds the animal protection portfolio at Nice City Hall, “Every year between May and August there’s a fifty per cent spike in the number of dogs abandoned, anywhere from car parks to – for the luckier ones – vets’ offices. We run an annual campaign around this time trying to get people to understand that a dog isn’t a toy that can be thrown away if it becomes a nuisance.”
Travel abroad ... not that easy
Our readers, we are confident, aren’t the sort of people who need to be told that. What they might find useful, though, is some advice on how to integrate their dog into their holiday plans. There are two possibilities: either the dog goes along too or stays behind in appropriate accommodation.
So you’ve decided that your dog can share your holiday. Once an animal is 3-months-old you can travel abroad with him but it’s not that easy. There are regulations at both ends of the journey that can – and sometimes do – create serious problems. I know of a case where a dog from the Var ended up serving six months in a UK quarantine centre. The owner hadn’t understood the rules. These are fairly standard across the EU, but it’s advisable to check out the details with your vet or online. Firstly, a dog travelling out of or into France must have had an anti-rabies vaccination at least 21 days prior to crossing the frontier. This is valid for a year. The UK, Ireland and Sweden require that the animal has had an anti-rabies test 6 months before departure and has been treated for ticks and tapeworms within 48 hours of arrival. In theory, the UK rule on the rabies test will be scrapped from 2012 when the current opt-out provision expires, but this is not yet certain. A dog must also be fitted with an identity chip (from this year tattoos are no longer accepted) and the owner has to carry the “pet passport” and health file (carnet de santé) obtained from the vet. Further information relevant to four-legged cross-Channel travellers is available at www.ambafrance-uk.org. For non-EU destinations advice is available from consulates. And a final point: when abroad, or away from your normal base in France, make sure your dog has a collar bearing your name (not his – that would help dognappers) and full mobile number. If he’s found straying this will speed his return.
Boarding kennels need careful selection
There are sometimes good reasons why it’s not practical to take your dog with you on holiday. Canines aren’t readily welcomed for example in countries where the locals accept the Koranic teaching that touching a dog is contaminating. Anyway, if your pooch is to stay behind you have to decide where to put him. There are several solutions. Probably the best and least stressful for the animal is lodging with friends of the owner who know and like him: many people, though, opt for boarding kennels (pensions in French). These can be good, and less than good. Vets can usually advise (though not always objectively, I’ve found); recommendation by a satisfied fellow dog-owner is the most reliable source of guidance.
Boarding kennels – especially if you don’t know the establishment in question – need careful selection. A few tips: drop in for a visit without an appointment so you can judge the place for yourself (hygiene, space and so on) and see how many dogs are in residence and if they seem happy and well cared for. Check out diet and feeding arrangements – a common trough for a dozen dogs (I’ve seen this) can lead to an older guest being pushed aside and missing out on his chow. Ask about veterinary arrangements and maybe even call the practitioner in question. And be up front with the kennel’s management if your dog has any behavioural problems so they’ re prepared for them. And a good idea from Brigitte Bardot, no less: leave your dog with a familiar toy and a piece of clothing with your distinctive smell – that will offer comfort if he feels disoriented.
There are other solutions: for example, a famille d’accueil where your dog goes into another household and shares the life of their pet or pets. Tim and Pam Copeman in Sospel, great dog people, are happy to welcome guests to hunker down with their two very friendly Labs. At the other extreme, you can put your pooch into a five-star hotel. Seriously. In Puget-sur-Argens in the Var, for example, there’s Caneden (“dog’s heaven”) where up to 18 four-legged guests are spoilt rotten with air-conditioned personal quarters, individualised diets, hydrotherapy and flyball (a US game for dogs). To find out more see www.hydrotherapie-canine.com