Some years ago, after I had spent several years living and working in Berlin after the fall of the Wall, I decided to move back to England. At the time, I had two dogs – miniature Schnauzers.
Because of the stringent rabies laws in place at the time, all domestic animals had to undergo six months of strict quarantine laws. The dogs were met at Dover by someone from the kennels in a white van, to be put in cages and taken to a kennels at Birdlip, in Gloucestershire. Although I could, if I wanted to, go and visit them every week, or even every day, I chose not to. The six months went by and eventually I was reunited with my Schnauzers.
Since then, I worked furiously to have the law changed and helped found Passports for Pets. Our success means that pet owners - once their animals are suitably inoculated and recorded - can now travel with their pets on holiday to Europe, and even beyond.
The other day I was on the ferry coming back from France - the route was St Malo to Portsmouth – having taken Topsy, my lovely little Lakeland terrier, on holiday with me.
After all these years, the ferry companies know what to do and how to handle the pets, their owners and their needs. It’s a rather lengthy journey on the ferry – if I remember correctly about 10 hours – so there’s loads of time to walk around the deck, look at the shops, have a meal, read a book or watch a video or two.
The dogs are all housed in special, rather large, cages in an area off the car deck. I can only think they spend most of the journey sleeping and the sound of the waves helps to calm them. At first, there is a tremendous amount of barking, as you can imagine, but once the owners have gone back to their cabins, it’s very quiet.
However, the ferry company allows two visits during the journey for us lot to see their pooches.
The first visit is at 12 noon, the other at 3.00 pm. We all gathered at the information desk, like anxious parents visiting their children at boarding school during the very first exeat. And most were quite excited to have the chance to go and see the dogs.
The system then allows for all the owners to walk with their dogs in an enclosed area, hoping that they will all 'perform'. But the funny thing was that all the dogs were so excited to see their owners, that none of them, surprisingly, had to go to the loo.
There was an instant rapport amongst the owners, if not the dogs – some were larger and fiercer than others, and some had toys in their cages, others didn’t.
Nevertheless, the whole process was very smooth indeed, and it means that so many British pet owners are now able – rather painlessly – to take their animals on holiday with them, rather than be separated.
It seems that Passports for Pets certainly brought about positive change – and to so many people and their pets.
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