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Travelling with your pet is hard during the pandemic but it can be done

Dog-friendly hotels and pet centric activities like yappy hour and cat cafes are on the rise. Picture: Supplied

Dog-friendly hotels and pet centric activities like yappy hour and cat cafes are on the rise. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 12, 2021


By Hannah Sampson

What happens when the great pandemic pet boom meets the post-vaccination travel boom?

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This holiday season, industry experts anticipate a new wave of animal owners will hit the road with the dogs, cats and other creatures they acquired during months of isolation.

"All of the indicators suggest that with the pandemic puppies and whatnot, that the phenomenon is real and that people are travelling with their dogs even more than before the pandemic," said Jason Halliburton, BringFido's chief operating officer.

Because of the rise of vacation rental companies, there are more pet-friendly lodging options than ever. But travelling with pets, especially by air, has gotten significantly more complicated.

Here's what experts say people should know about hitting the road - or air, or rails - with pets.

Flying with pets is trickier now

People who last flew with their pets before the pandemic face a whole new set of rules.

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The easy days of flying with an emotional-support animal free are gone. Since the beginning of this year, only trained service dogs have been allowed to fly in the cabin at no extra charge.

International travellers have a different hurdle to consider.

"They can't go on vacation and take their dog to Belize," said Angela Passman, a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association and owner of World Pet Travel. "[If] they take their dog to Belize, it doesn't come home."

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People looking to fly their pets, she said, need to make sure the airline will carry them. And if they're looking to travel internationally, they must confirm the pet would be allowed back into the country.

"Just be careful," Passman said. "I can't stress it enough."

Check how your hotel defines 'pet-friendly’

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Finding a hotel, Airbnb or other rental that accepts animals is a demanding task on its own, but figuring out how different properties define "pet-friendly" is an additional challenge.

Halliburton, the BringFido executive, said some hotels roll out the red carpet for pets, with amenities such as canine massage and gourmet room service.

Even without a special programme, many hotels allow animals to stay (for a fee) with some ground rules. Within a hotel brand, every location might welcome pets, or individual property owners may be able to decide whether they will allow them. Prices might vary within the same chain.

On Airbnb, some listings have pet fees and strict rules, while others don't mention either.

Prospective visitors need to check the rules before they rent. The platform recently rolled out changes to entice more hosts to accept pets in their listings.

Amy Burkert, founder of the site GoPetFriendly, said travellers need to find out whether their accommodation has weight limits or a maximum number of pets, whether the pet can be left unattended and whether there are breed restrictions.

Cat owners should also check specifically for restrictions concerning their pets.

"Pet-friendly doesn't necessarily translate into cat-friendly," she said.

Avoid cleaning charges in rental cars

Most rental-car companies allow pets, but some, such as Avis, advise calling individual pickup locations to make sure. Some companies require pets to be kept in carriers. Others just say the car has to be clean and odour-free. If not, a cleaning charge applies.

Burkert said her tip is to get an inexpensive shower curtain, thread the holes into the car's headrests and cover whatever area the pet will sit in.

Practice mealtime manners for restaurants

Burkert frequents restaurants with her mixed-breed dog, Myles. When she gets up to leave, she said, fellow customers will often say they didn't even realize she had a pet.

"That's exactly what I wanted," she said.

She trained him at home by teaching him to stay on his place - a piece of a yoga mat - and then progressed to practicing at park picnic tables and off-hour coffee shops and restaurants. When they do go out to eat, she brings a toy stuffed with frozen dog food, water, a water bowl and a bully stick to chew on.

Still, Burkert said, dogs can have bad days: "You always have to be ready to get up and leave."

She recommended checking restaurants' websites and calling ahead to make sure that they allow pets in outdoor areas (and that outdoor areas are even open).

Keep pet safety in mind on the road

Gabrielle Fadl, the medical director of Bond Vet in Brooklyn, said the safest way for pets to travel in cars is to put them inside carriers or crates. There are also seat belts made for dogs that don't fit into crates.

In the days leading up to a trip, Fadl said, owners should leave the crate or carrier out and occasionally leave snacks in them to create positive associations. Travelling with a familiar blanket could help ease stress on the trip, too.

It is good to stop every three to four hours to give pups a break. If they are anxious, restless, panting or whining, those might be signs they need to stop sooner.

Mary Burch, who directs the American Kennel Club's canine manners programme, said rest breaks should include a 10-to-15-minute walk and fresh water.

Burch said the pet should have sufficient air circulation wherever it is sitting, and a pet might be more comfortable near an air-conditioning vent during a long trip.

Make a medical checklist

If a pet is flying, owners should make sure they know whether the airline will require a health certificate and how long in advance it can be issued, Fadl said.

She said older pets should get checked before a trip to make sure the stress of travelling won't be harmful. Owners should bring up any potential travel-related issues with their vet in advance.

"If your pet gets nauseous or anxious, there are medications that can help make it an easier trip for all parties involved," Fadl said.

The pet's packing list should include any medications it is taking, as well as prescription refills in case of an emergency.

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