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Deciding if Your Pet Should Go on Vacation With You

Deciding if Your Pet Should Go on Vacation With You

Your pet is more than just an animal; he’s a member of your family. As such, you naturally want to include Spot or Snowball in your vacation plans. Before you pack a bag for your pet too, however, consider these tips.

•Rule 1: Pets who are very young, very old, pregnant, sick, injured, prone to biting or excessive vocalizing, or who cannot follow basic obedience commands should not travel.

Before you make reservations, determine if your pet is able to go on vacation with you. Most animals can and do make the most of the experience, but a small percentage simply are not cut out for traveling. Illness, physical condition and temperament are important factors, as is your pet's ability to adjust to such stresses as changes to his environment and routine. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian. If you feel your pet isn't up to the trip, it's better for everyone if he stays home.

•Rule 2: If your pet can't actively participate in the trip, she should stay home.

Even if Spot and Snowball are seasoned travelers, take into account the type of vacation and activities you have planned. No pet is going to be happy (or safe) cooped up in a car or hotel room. Likewise, the family dog may love camping and hiking, but the family cat may not. You also need to consider what kind of restaurants in the area you can go to with a pet. Putting a little thought toward your animal's needs and safety will pay off in a more enjoyable vacation for everyone.

•Rule 3: Be specific when making travel plans that include your pet. Nobody wants unpleasant surprises on vacation.

Most of the information presented pertains to cats and dogs. If you own a bird, hamster, pig, ferret, lizard or other exotic creature, remember that unusual animals are not always accepted as readily as more conventional pets. Always specify the type of pet you have when making arrangements. Check if the municipalities you are traveling through and staying within have breed-specific regulations, i.e. certain dogs not allowed on the premises or even in the municipality. City or county resources should be referenced, as establishments may be unaware of their local restrictions.

Also check states' animal policies. Hawaii imposes a 120-day quarantine for all imported dogs, cats and other carnivores to prevent the importation of rabies. In some cases, the quarantine period may be reduced to 5 days or less if a pet meets various pre- and post-arrival requirements. Guide dogs and service dogs are exempt from the quarantine provided they have: a standard health certificate issued within 30 days prior to arrival; a current rabies vaccination with documentation of the product name, lot number and lot expiration date; a successful result of an OIE-FAVN rabies blood test conducted after 1 year of age; and an electronic identification microchip implanted and operational. Upon arrival, guide dogs and service dogs still must be examined for external parasites. For additional details, obtain the Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Information Brochure from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Animal Quarantine Station, 99-951 Halawa Valley St., Aiea, HI 96701-5602; phone (808) 483-7151, e-mail rabiesfree@hawaii.gov. Further information also is available from the department's web site: www.hdoa.hawaii.gov/ai/aqs.

North Carolina has stringent restrictions regarding pets in hotels. Make certain you understand an accommodation's specific policies before making reservations.

•Rule 4: Never leave your pet with someone you don't trust.

If Spot and Snowball stay behind, leave them in good hands while you're gone. Family, friends and neighbors make good sitters (provided they're willing), especially if they know your pet and can care for him in your home. Make sure to have plenty of your pet’s favorite toys on hand, so they have fun things to do while you are away. Provide detailed instructions for feeding, exercise and medication, as well as phone numbers for your destination, your veterinarian and your local animal emergency clinic.

Professional pet sitters offer a range of services, from feeding and walking your pet daily to full-time house sitting while you are on your trip. Interview several candidates, and always check credentials and references. For additional information, contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International.

Kennels board many animals simultaneously and generally are run by professionals who will provide food and exercise according to your instructions. Pets usually are kept in a run (dogs) or cage (cats and small dogs) and may not get the same level of human interaction as at home. Veterinary clinics also board pets and may be the best choice if yours is sick, injured or needs special medical care.

Veterinarians, fellow pet owners and professional associations are a good source of referrals for sitters and kennels.

The Last Word

You are ultimately responsible for your pet's welfare and behavior while traveling. Know what to do with your furry friend before booking airline tickets to your dream destination. Since animals cannot speak for themselves, it is up to you to focus on your pet's well-being every step of the way. It also is important to make sure he conducts himself properly so that other pets will be welcome visitors in the future. Following these tips will help ensure that both you and your animal companion have a safe and happy trip.