Holidaying with your pet in 2021

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Holidaying with your pet in 2021 is going to feel different for a couple of reasons. The obvious is the pandemic. This has overshadowed another significant change. Leaving the EU has resulted in changes to how we travel.

Let’s consider the changes we are likely to face because of Covid-19. Each nation within the UK has its own Coronavirus lockdown rules. You can find up to date guidance on the Institute for Government website.

Here are the key points by country:

England:

  • Since the 17th of May holiday accommodation opened for groups of up to six people from two households.
  • Indoor and outdoor venues except for nightclubs and dancehalls are permitted to reopen.
  • Cafes, pubs and restaurants are open.

Scotland:

  • Tourist accommodation has been open since the 26th of April.
  • Leisure and entertainment venues are permitted to reopen apart from soft play,
  • Cafes, pubs and restaurants are open until 10:30 pm and require bookings.

Wales:

  • Currently, all cafes, restaurants, pubs and accommodation are open.
  • Leisure and entertainment venues except ice skating and nightclubs are open.

Northern Ireland:

  • A group of up to six people (excluding under 12s) from unlimited households can go to pubs with tables, cafes and restaurants.
  • All tourist accommodation is permitted to reopen for groups of up to six people from two households. Children under 12 are excluded from the total number of people.

These guidelines are subject to change, so please ensure you check the latest restrictions on the Institute for Government website.

What does leaving the EU mean for those wanting to travel with pets?

Since leaving the EU the rules on travelling with your pet have changed. For instance, your pet passport is no longer valid. In its place, you will need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from your vet which will carry an additional cost. This is a new requirement for every journey you make.

Animal Health Certificates (AHC)

If you are travelling from Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland you will need to obtain an Animal Health Certificate no more than 10 days before you travel. You should check with your veterinary practice before you make any travel plans because it may be difficult to get an appointment. This is especially true at the moment (May 2021) as many practices are still closed for non-emergency appointments because of Covid-19.

Vaccination and treatment requirements

It is a requirement for pet’s travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland to have a rabies vaccination. This needs to be completed at least 21 days before you travel and your pet must be over 12 weeks old.

Certain countries require pets to be treated for tapeworm. These include:

  • Ireland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Finland
  • Malta
  • Norway

The treatment should be administered 1 – 5 days before travelling.  This can be completed at the same time as getting your animal health certificate.

Microchips

Most people know that legally dogs must be microchipped and the details kept up to date. Recent changes now make it a legal requirement for cats to be microchipped. This is also true if you are travelling with pets – they must be microchipped.

Silent dangers of holidaying with your pet

Without a doubt, many pet owners will choose to stay in the UK for their holiday. The uncertainty of what will be open and whether travel restrictions or quarantines will be in place may put you off a foreign holiday.

A silver lining is that more people will be able to holiday with their pets. For the vast majority, this will be an opportunity to make lasting memories with all of the family. A little preparation will go a long way to ensure your holiday goes without a hitch.

What should you take with you?

The list of items can depend on the type of holiday you are going on. The basics that you should take are:

  • Any medication.
  • Leads, harnesses and collar including ID.
  • A tie-out lead and ground spike can be useful if you are camping and need to keep your dog on a lead whilst in the main camping area.
  • There are specific products designed to carry water and allow your pet to drink whilst you are on the move.
  • Don’t forget to take towels for muddy paws.
  • Bedding and toys that your pet is familiar with can reduce the stresses of going to a new place.
  • Food and water bowl.
  • Your pet’s normal food. A change in diet can result in stomach upsets.

Dogs and cars

In the UK it is a legal requirement for dogs to be restrained whilst travelling in a car. The restraint can be a harness that fixes into the seat-belt catch. Alternatively, your dog can be in the boot of an estate car if there is a net or other restraint to ensure your dog can’t jump out of the boot into the interior of your car. You should ensure your dog is comfortable with this method of restraint before you go on holiday.

Cats and other small pets and cars

We recommend you consider whether it is fair on your cat or smaller pets to take them on holiday. From my personal experience, cats hate being enclosed in a carrier – especially when you consider that this is normally the prelude to a veterinary visit. The whole experience of travelling and then exposure to a new surrounding can be extremely stressful. I normally ask a trusted neighbour to feed and make a fuss of my cat when I’m away.

If you do decide to travel with a cat you will need to consider how you will allow your cat to take toilet breaks whilst you are travelling and at your final destination. This may be as simple as using a cat lead – which your cat will need to be comfortable before the journey.

You should check that your holiday accommodation is cat friendly. Even if it is advertised as a pet-friendly venue, it is worth checking as they may be referring to dogs.

Dangers of leaving a pet in a car

We hope that this goes without saying. Please don’t leave your pet unattended in a car. Cars can become too hot for our pets in a surprisingly short time. Even on a cloudy day, it’s best not to take the risk.

What should you do on arrival?

Cats and dogs will need some time to explore their surroundings. However, before you give your pet free-range of the accommodation, you should pet-proof all rooms where they will have access. Make sure there is nothing that will harm your pet and that nothing has been left out that your pet shouldn’t eat. For example, you should put any chemical cleaners out of reach.

Once you are sure that there are no temptations and the area is secure allow your pet to explore your new surroundings at their own pace.

What should you do if your pet runs away?

The first thing to remember is to try and stay calm. This is easier said than done, but you will be able to cover more ground if you are calm. You should inform the site manager or main point of contact for the venue.

Walk around the immediate area calling your pet’s name in a friendly relaxed manner. Take a box of your pet’s favourite treats and rattle it whilst you search.

Lost pet posters

Most of us have mobile devices with access to the internet – you probably already have pictures of your pet stored on the device. Use this to create a lost pet poster or flier. If you are particularly worried about your pet escaping you may want to create a poster before you travel, just in case.

Contact shelters / veterinary practices

If you don’t find your pet straight away, it is a good idea to contact the local animal shelters/veterinary practices to see if your pet has been found and handed to them.

Don’t become the victim of pet theft

The demand for dogs has increased during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has increased the numbers of dogs being stolen for profit. It can be all too easy for you to drop your guard whilst on holiday. The simplest step to avoid becoming a victim of pet theft is for you to never leave your dog unaccompanied.

Don’t leave your pet unaccompanied in the accommodation or tied outside a shop on his own.

Summary

This year holidays may feel strange and the preparations needed may be more challenging because of the pandemic and changes to regulations. However, there is no reason to be scared about taking your pets on holiday. The vast majority of holidaymakers will come home with great memories that will last a lifetime.

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