Pets play an important role in many of our lives, but travelling with them, especially to the UK, is not straightforward, and having your pet with you isn't always practical. The issue has, however, created business opportunities for those who turned their love of animals into a new way of life: from catteries and kennels to pet couriers. Two businesses tell Lucy Stubbs about the highs and lows of caring for other people's pets
It was a dream for Jon and Sue Moir when they moved to Normandy in 2005 with their two daughters, Lara and Elissa. "I was teaching animal care in Britain, but I had always dreamt of running a kennels one day," says Jon Moir.
"France offered us the land we needed at a price we could afford."
Normandy Kennels opened in June 2006 and caters for cats or dogs, although they have also taken in rabbits, mice, guinea pigs and chickens. "Most of our clients are British, although we do have some French pets," says Jon.
"We stick to the animal's routine and cater for their individual feeding requirements; some of those can be interesting, such as providing Weetabix and milk for breakfast."
As an animal-loving family, the Moirs have found it easy to adapt to running the kennels, but Jon admits that each Christmas morning proves to be a tough time for their children.
"The girls get very frustrated. They have to wait to open their Christmas presents until we have seen to the animals.
"Most pet owners are pretty sensible in their requests, but Christmas is a time when even the cats get presents."
Renée Hemming moved to France 15 years ago. With a background as a veterinary nurse, it made sense to continue working with animals, so she set up Cani-Excel.
The company provides a pet courier service, kennels, cattery and petsitting services.
"Most of our pet transportation involves transporting pets to destinations outside the EU," says Renée.
"But we do transport pets between France and Britain. Sometimes people want their pets to go on ahead, but more often, they leave them with us and we send them on later.
"We also deal with unusual pets such as snakes, hens and iguanas, where you need specialist knowledge to import them."
One reason why pets are sent back to the UK after their owners have returned is because the pet doesn't have a valid pet passport (see below for details).
"It breaks my heart," says Renée. "I have a dog in the kennels at the moment who can't travel because his passport isn't up to date.
"If I had one piece of advice for expatriates, it would be to get your pets a passport as soon as you move to France.
"I hear the same story all the time; people say they are never going back – but you never know what might happen and it is better to be prepared in advance."
Renée said that although it is expensive to get a pet passport – €200-€300 per pet – it is cheaper than paying kennel fees (about €400 per month) for six months while a
pet passport is processed.
"My pets have up-to-date passports, even though I don't plan to go to Britain, because I don't want to face the prospect of being without them for six months," she says.
Her comments are echoed by Jon Moir: "Most of the pets we look after are on short breaks.
"But we do see big passport problems when people have to rush back to the UK."
As well as the financial and psychological implications for owners, Jon says that it is also stressful for the pets as they, particularly dogs, show signs of "anxiety and
separation" when parted from their owners for long periods.
"I'd urge people to pre-empt the situation by getting their pets passported," says Jon.
"If you have to leave at the drop of a hat, it may well be for an unfortunate reason; not being able to take your pet with you will just compound your problems."
EU guidelines on moving your pets
THINGS to remember when travelling with your pet within the European Union:
- EU guidelines in 2010 say no more than five dogs, cats or ferrets (per person) can travel from one EU state to another at any one time.
- Rabbits and rodents do not require pet passports or vaccinations to travel, but you need your travel operator's permission.
- Special rules apply for moving young pets (too young to have had the rabies vaccination) from one EU state to another. See http://tinyurl.com/cnxn-pet-rules
- Dogs, cats and ferrets need pet passports to travel. Pet passports are issued by vets. It is up to owners to make sure the information in the document is correct.
FOLLOW this check-list to make sure you are prepared:
1 - Have your pet fitted with a microchip: this is a requirement for taking dogs to the UK and Ireland and is extended across the EU from July.
2 - Vaccinate all your pets against rabies and keep the vaccinations up to date.
3 - For most EU countries, a valid rabies vaccination will suffice, but for the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Malta, pets must have a blood test to show they are rabies-free,
then wait six months before travelling. After the six months, pets can travel freely between the UK and other EU states provided their rabies booster vaccinations are up to date.
4 - All pets travelling to the UK must be treated for tapeworm and ticks not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before checking-in to travel.
5 - Pets must travel to the UK by approved sea, air or rail route (Get a list at http://tinyurl.com/cnxn-defraroutes): they cannot enter on private planes or boats.
6 - Beware. Pets arriving in another EU state without a valid pet passport risk being turned back. Pets arriving in the UK without a valid passport could be quarantined for six months.