Isabella von Mesterhazy explains all you need to know and how to prepare before taking your pet with you to France
Your dog or cat is one of the family, so it’s natural that you might want to take them on holiday. Having Fido or Felix with you on your trip abroad, particularly if it’s for an extended period of time, will make your stay complete. Fortunately, the law governing the transport of animals to EU countries has been relaxed since 2012, but there are still strict rules that must be adhered to so that you can have a stress-free trip.
The Pet Travel Scheme
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) has allows pets to travel or move abroad without quarantine so long as they meet all necessary requirements. There are specific rules and regulations you must follow in order to travel with your pet, and these differ depending on the country you’re going to or coming from. The following guidance is for travel between the UK and France, which is governed by EU regulations. The rules are there to protect both you and other animals in the UK and abroad. As long as you know what you have to do, and you are prepared in advance, you should be able to travel without any problems. When travelling between the UK and France, your pet needs:
* a microchip.
* a rabies vaccination. Make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination won’t count, and remember you must wait 21 days from the date of the rabies vaccination before travelling.
* a pet passport or official veterinary certificate.
* tapeworm treatment. This is required for dogs only, and a qualified vet must carry out and record the treatment in your pet’s passport. You must not administer the treatment yourself. The treatment must be carried out every time your pet enters the UK.
* If flying or taking the ferry, you must use an authorised carrier and an approved route. Check at www.gov.uk.
On the road with dogs
The preferred choice for a lot of pet owners travelling to France is by car. Other than toy breeds, dogs should be confined to the rear compartment of an estate car or hatchback, using a purpose-built travelling cage or dog guard. Small breeds can travel on the back seat if you use a special harness that clips into the seat belt. Your dog would probably prefer to be alongside you in the car, but a loose dog is a distraction and a potential danger that can cause serious injury.
The best travelling cages are made to fit the specific model of the car and make the most of the available space. They can appear expensive, but if your pet is a frequent traveller in your car, they make a great deal of sense. Alternatively, if you decide to go for a dog guard, choose one that is manufactured specifically for your car. It will fit better and will provide a more effective barrier to restrain the dog in the event of an accident.
You can make your dog’s journey more comfortable by providing a beanbag, which will mould to the shape of the dog and stop him from rolling around too much. An older or arthritic dog will definitely benefit from this extra consideration.
Heat stroke is a serious threat for dogs in cars, so avoid travelling in the midday heat if it is summertime. If the sun is streaming through the rear or side window of your car as you drive, and you feel hot, your dog will undoubtedly be suffering. Fitting blinds can help.
Never leave your dog in a car in warm weather – even for a few minutes. Even if all the windows are left open, the temperature can quickly reach 35°C (95°F), and your dog could suffer heat stroke which could result in the death of your dog, and you being prosecuted.
Ensure you make plenty of stops along the way for fresh air, and to let your dog stretch its legs. Provide plenty of fresh water, and if your dog shows any signs of heat stroke: distress, collapse, convulsions; remove them from the car into a cool shady area immediately, and seek veterinary help. Spray water on your dog, particularly on the head and neck area, and ideally wrap cool, wet towels around them to help reduce body temperature quickly. Give your dog as much water as it wants and add a pinch of salt if possible.
On the road with cats
Choose a carry case that is the right size for your cat. They should have plenty of room to stand up, turn around and be able to see out easily. Plastic or fibreglass cases are ideal for long journeys; they are draught proof, easy to clean and will last for years.
Line the bottom of the case with absorbent material, such as newspaper, to soak up any accidents. Cover this with a familiar blanket or an old piece of your clothing to make your cat feel safe. Adding a favourite toy also helps. Let your cat get used to the carry case by getting it ready and leaving it around the house for a few days before you travel. You can also try feeding your cat in the case once or twice, and shutting it in for short periods.
A cat may overheat in the luggage compartment of a hatchback or an estate car, so place the carrying case on the floor of the car or strap it securely on the rear seat.
Never let your cat out of the container during the journey, even if it appears anxious, in case it tries to escape, or distracts the driver. The noise and motion of the car will eventually calm it down, and it will usually fall asleep. If your cat is a particularly nervous traveller, your vet may be able to provide you with a sedative to administer before departure.
Place a small dish of fresh water in the carrying case, and carry a spare bottle with you for topping this up. If your cat suffers from motion sickness, do not feed it within an hour of departure.
If you take a break during the journey, make sure there is no danger of the cat overheating if it is left in the car. Park in the shade and leave a window ajar. Once you have parked, you can let your cat out in the car with you, but make sure that any windows are only slightly open, and that there is no chance of the cat escaping.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, check that all windows and doors are closed before letting your cat out of the carry case, and only allow access to one room at a time. Set up a litter tray and, after paying your cat some attention, give it a good meal and a comfortable place to sleep. It should soon overcome any anxiety about being in a strange place.
If you are only visiting for a short time, say up to three weeks, it is best not to let your cat outside at all. When you go out, confine your cat to a room with at least two doors between it and the outside world. Settle it down with water and a litter tray, and it will be happy until you return. When you come back, make sure that you close the outside door before you open the door to the room where your cat is. That way there is little chance of the cat escaping. Be careful not to leave any windows open.
If your cat is used to being on a collar and lead, you can take it out in the garden, but make sure that there are no dogs around.
Travel Insurance for pets?
Before you travel with your pet, make sure to have pet insurance in place and check that the policy covers your pet while abroad. Not all pet insurance includes travel so it is worth checking this if you are taking out a policy and travel is important for you and your pet.
Be aware of any temperature difference your pet will experience by your move abroad. It can be very uncomfortable for pets if the heat is more than they are used to. It can also cause some pets to fall ill through dehydration, so be aware of this and ensure they are drinking enough. Likewise, if you are moving somewhere that is very cold, will your pet be able to cope? Ensure they are warm enough by providing coats, extra blankets at night etc, if necessary.
Your new home
Familiarise yourself with your local vet, and register your pet with them as soon as you arrive.
Don’t let your dog off the lead until you have settled into the new area, and you and your dog are familiar with your new home and the surrounding area.
Allowing your cat out on its own in a new place is always nerve-wracking. To start with, don’t feed your cat much for 12 hours before allowing it out, and then call it back inside after 10 to 15 minutes, using food as an enticement. For the first month or so, let your cat out once a day, using the sight and smell of a meal each time to encourage back inside. Soon your cat should be familiar with his new neighbourhood, and you should be able to start letting it out as you did before you moved.
Isabella von Mesterhazy is Head of Marketing at Petplan www.petplan.co.uk
Case study – taking pets to France
Jim and Jo Waters, expats living in Lot-et-Garonne, describe their experience of taking their cats Willow and DC with them to France.
“In 2012 we moved from Nottingham to Monflanquin in Lot-et-Garonne to set up a gîte business and brought our two cats with us. Moving your whole life to another country is complicated, so the first job was online research to look for advice on the legal requirements for taking pets abroad. We found the government website www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad very useful.
Next we asked our vet about Pet Passports. The first thing was to check that their microchips were working, then to have a rabies jab. This should be done four weeks before travelling. The vet completed the paperwork for the passports, which arrived two weeks later.
The cats were then ready to travel so we needed to decide how to get them to France. We looked into flights, but the costs were nearly £1000, so we decided to take them with us in the car.
For the crossing we decided the tunnel would be best as it was quicker than the ferry, and we could stay in the car with the cats during the crossing.
Moving day was very stressful and noisy, with lots of strangers in the house. In hindsight we should have asked friends to look after the cats for the day.
The cats travelled together in a large carry box and we took three rest breaks during the ten-hour journey, to let them stretch, eat and use the litter.
Once settled in, everything else has been straightforward. We registered them with the local vet and the costs were broadly similar to the UK”.