OPINION: I was just thinking... it’s a dog’s life for travelling pet owners

Paddy the dog prepares for his latest expedition Paddy the dog prepares for his latest expedition

Saturday, January 11, 2014
3:06 PM

I was just thinking…about the cynical exploitation of those of us daft enough to aspire to travel abroad with our much adored furry friends.

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I’m talking matters canine or feline. Or indeed musteline. That’s ferrets to you and me.

The Roystonian significance of this diatribe is limited. Okay, it’s non-existent. But I thought it might provide food for thought.

We have a dog. It’s a comical little thing, the result of a moment of pug and chihuahua passion. A chug. Actually, it’s not ours at all but seems to have come to live with us for an indefinite period of time. Its owner, you see, our third born, has gloriously managed to get a part in a touring production of the musical Fame for an unheard-of period of six months. Theatres aren’t keen on dogs, so Paddy is now a North Herts resident. We are jubilant on behalf of our son but, having been headily dog-free for several months, are now pooch-tied once more.

We visit Normandy often. Nothing easier than to jump into the car, drive to Portsmouth, enjoy the relative luxury of the ferry to Caen from whence it is a mere hour’s drive to our little bolthole. But now, and it’s quite a big but, the dog comes too. And because he has separation issues we feel unable to abandon him for the five hour traverse across the inhospitable, sometimes even cruel, sea. So now we go via Eurotunnel. A mere two hours drive to Folkestone, 30 minutes on the train followed by an interminable four-and-a-half hours drive across northern France. But we are prepared to make the sacrifice – for the dog. Even though he’s not ours, he fulfills the role of man’s best friend.

But, and this is where the cynical exploitation occurs, we are paying for our sacrifice. Through the nose. Paddy is a mere 18 inches long and not even 12 inches high. Smaller than a suitcase. Yet the good folk at Eurotunnel demand a payment of £16 each way even though he weighs nothing nor takes up any space on the train as he, of course, stays in the car for the duration of the crossing.

It rankles. I expect you can tell.

But this is as nothing compared to the scam operated by whoever it is who has made the rules about the obligatory veterinary services which the little mutt has to command each and every time we do the crossing. Bizarrely selective, only the British demand that our domesticated critturs must see the vet before they return to the hallowed shores of our green and pleasant land. You go; you tell the vet that you’re returning home; he gives Fido or Fuffy or … Ferrie – just go with it – the once over; he gives you a comprimé (a pill) to counteract what can only be the very real threat of the killer tapeworm. Then he writes in the passport, smiles contentedly and stings you for 35 euros. So in total, that’ll be £61 at today’s exchange rate. Merci, mille fois.

Travelling from England to France no-one seems to care. You’re lucky if you see a douanier at all. I could understand it if rabies was still prevalent or if there was a special train for beasts, but neither is the case. It costs no-one anything to transport them and they present no danger to life or health. So, someone, somewhere is making a fast buck. I wouldn’t dream of pointing any fingers but suffice to say the French vets must be very happy.

Eurotunnel, too, must be très content. Which is even more galling (or Gauling perhaps?). Since the chug’s invasion we have travelled under the sea some five or six times. Twice we have been so delayed that it seemed we had been travelling forever. Did they apologise? Did they refund our fare? But of course not. They just kept sending us irritatingly holier-than-thou texts to remind us that we had to take the dog to the vet before returning home.

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