What do you do with your pets when you go away on holiday? This can be a significant complication of owning a pet.
The various options are listed below.
Take your pet with you
Many people take their pets with them, but you do need to check before you leave that your destination accommodation is “pet friendly”.
If you are visiting the UK, USA or continental Europe, you need a pet passport for your dog or cat, which involves vaccinating your pet at least 3 weeks before you go. Talk to your vet to find out what this involves, and do this well in advance of your planned trip.
- The best kennels book out many months in advance for the peak summer season, so do plan as far ahead as possible.
- Don’t forget to check that your pets’ vaccines are up to date, including Kennel Cough. Some pets are refused entry into boarding kennels at the last minute because of an out-of-date vaccine certificate.
- Leave your pet in for a trial weekend at a boarding kennel before a longer stay. If your pet enjoy a weekend’s stay, this bodes well for a longer spell away from home, and it also gives them a chance to get used to the place, so they are less likely to feel uneasy when you leave them there for the holiday break.
- Many countries – such as the UK – have licensing systems for boarding kennels and catteries, to ensure that high standards are maintained. In Ireland, there’s no such system: anybody can set one up, running it in whatever way they see fit. Boarding kennels can be run in sheds, garages and private back yards. There are no rules, and it’s a free market. As a result, it’s up to pet owners to screen kennels on their own, and this can be difficult for many people who may not be aware of the subtleties of looking after animals. At busy times of year in particular, people can be so desperate to find somebody to look after their pet that they’ll accept any level of care that’s available.
- For pet owners who are looking for some sort of benchmark of quality, the Irish Boarding Kennel and Cattery Association is a good option: all members must agree to fulfil the IBKCA Code of Ethics. If any kennel fails to come up to the expected standard, the IBKCA will investigate the situation on behalf of the pet owner, and take whatever action is appropriate.
Pet and house sitters
There are two new alternatives to traditional boarding kennels.
- This website connects up pet owners with dog-loving members of the public who are happy to mind pets in their own home. This type of service is a trend that started in the USA, and it has rapidly become popular around the world.
There are two types of customers who use the website.
- First, there are people who want to earn some cash by minding pets. A wide range of people sign up as pet minders – from professional pet sitters to veterinary students and nurses to members of the public who are experienced dog owners. They all have two things in common: they enjoy the company of dogs and they are able to fit an extra dog into their home and lifestyle. The Housemydog scrutineers are very selective and only approve 3 out of every 10 applications: applicants have to go through a rigorous screening process.
- The second “HouseMyDog” customer is the dog owner who is looking for an alternative to boarding kennels for their pet. For these people the process is simple: they type in the area where they live, and the dates when they want to have their pet minded. A list of potential minders then pops up: they click on the minder of their choice, and the booking is made.
There are reassuring security aspects built in to the system: for example, all pet minders are covered by complimentary emergency veterinary insurance in case their pet has an accident or falls ill. And an online review system means that pet minders soon build up track records of reliability. Most people make sure they meet a new minder first (perhaps going for a short dog walk together), and ideally they arrange a ‘trial stay’ for a couple of hours or overnight, so that they can thoroughly check the minder and their home out before leaving them there for a longer period.
For pet owners who have more than one dog, rather than leaving them to be cared in someone else’s house, it can make more sense to have a pet sitter come to live in your own home while you are away. You can set this up informally, with a friend, or you can employ a professional pet and house sitter. The Trustedhousesitters.com website offers an innovative option: having your pets minded “for free”. You offer potential pet sitters the opportunity to live in your house, and perhaps even use your car, while you are away, in return for looking after your pets. If you live in an area that people from other countries wish to visit, this allows them to have free accommodation in return for the daily task of looking after your pets.
I’ve used this service before myself, acting as a house sitter in Greece and in France. I can highly recommend it for both parties: it’s a well run, efficient and safe option.