Advice to Pet Owners Travelling Abroad

Advice to Pet Owners Travelling Abroad

By Antony Albert Roberts

When we first came to Spain, we brought our two dogs with us, both Yorkshire terriers, brother and sister. In a moment of madness my wife christened them Cagney (apparently after James Cagney, because the dog looked like a little toughie, bless him) & Lacey (I still do not know where this name came from, but she is a cutie, the dog that is, not the wife).

Our experience of obtaining passports could not have been easier. This pet passport is a great idea because apart from exceptional cases it does away with the need for quarantine, which is a distressing experience for everybody. There is a government information website and a telephone helpline 0870 241 1710.

The local vet in our hometown in Ormskirk knew exactly what was needed and the timescale involved. Therefore, it was just a case of turning up with the dogs and paying him. Bye, the way, the vets are excellent in Spain, where it is a popular profession and most have a smattering of English, so a trip to the vet is not a linguistic nightmare. Also, the fees and medications are considerable cheaper than in the UK. Pet insurance is also available from a number of insurance companies; premiums are considerably cheaper than the UK and provide cover against all the usual contingencies.

There are a number of ways to transport your dog, rail, ferry and plane; animals are allowed to travel to most airports in Spain. All need notifying prior to your departure. We decided to combine our travel with a little bit of sightseeing and left England via the Chunnel, which was excellent, but the plan was flawed, our route took us through Paris, what an absolute nightmare, it wasn’t romantic I can tell you. However, the French hotels were excellent and when I asked for a room for the four of us, they could not have been more accommodating.

Not quite the same story once we got into Spain, here the hotels prohibited animals and we finished staying in motels, mostly used by businessmen and long distance lorry drivers. Whilst, the furnishing were somewhat old, the food and drink was fabulous, all you could possible eat for 10 euros. If you are not in a hurry to get to your final destination, then this easy driving is recommended, the scenery is incredible, and don’t worry about the roads , they are quiet and mainly dual carriageway.

So there we are, the four of us (me, the wife and the two dogs) sitting on a beach in the mid-day sun, thinking it might be a good idea to find some shade, watching some young Spanish lads tease a little dog. The dog was obviously starting to get a bit distressed, so the wife goes over to offer her assistance and comes back with the little fellow, he is obviously not a pedigree, what we call a “bitsa”, a bit of this and a bit of that, but he is very friendly and even our two dogs seem to like him. He shares our lunch, has some liquid refreshment and decides he quite likes us. So, when it time to go home our new found friend decides he fancies the challenge of learning a new language and walks home with us. He’s been with us ever since, we call him “Chico”

At this time we where living in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment in the centre of Aguilas. Renting an apartment or villa in a prime location for long-term stay is quite difficult. The property owners are quite happy to have you for the winter, but come summer and the prospect of high short-term rentals, means that you will have to find somewhere else to live. When we rented the apartment, the property owner told us “no animals or pets”, we told him “no cockroaches”. Surprisingly, in our block, almost everybody seems to own a small dog. This flagrant breach of rules is typical of Spanish behaviour; they often say one thing, then either ignore it or, do the complete opposite.

Today, is a day that Chico and I will remember for the rest of our lives, he is having the snip, as the Spanish say he is being castrada, (it does not need translating). It does sound painful, even though the vet assures me, (whilst she takes my 170 euros), that it is not. She would like the Spanish people to follow my example and have their dogs castrated. This would help reduce the number of stray dogs and cats, although to be fair, the situation has improved considerably since we first came here.

We sit in the reception area, smiling and nodding at the other dog owners, however, both of us are shaking involuntarily. Dogs seem to know that a trip to the vet is not going to be a pleasant experience. Our names are called and I take him into the surgery. I have a terrible feeling of betrayal, I say goodbye to Chico promising that I will return and then I make a dash for the nearest bar, a quick brandy should do the trick, and suddenly I remember I have given up the drink for Lent.

The waiter smiles – Buenas dias I reply “Coffee con leche, por favor”

Now the Spanish have a somewhat tarnished reputation when it comes to caring about animals. In the past, they have inflicted cruelty to animals that we British just cannot accept.

I still think bullfighting is horrific, if you get the chance to go, and then do not, you have been warned. Irrespective of what people say about tradition and art, bullfighting is gory, but it is big business, there is a lot of money involved, some of it even coming from the EU in the form of subsidies. Surprisingly, the majority of Spaniards are actually against or indifferent to bullfighting and the disgraceful behaviour of so-called “hunters” appalls them.

Following the bombings Madrid, there has been a change of government and now the ruling PSOE is considering introducing the much-needed national animal protection legislation; we will have to wait and see how.

However, the good news is, it is getting better, helped of course by the Brits, who open charity shops, rescue centres, and do a truly wonderful job. Here in the southeast corner of Spain, in the little coastal town of Mojacar, there is a charity rescue organisation called PAWS (Peoples Animal Welfare Society), who since 1990 have done outstanding work, rescuing and caring for abandoned animals. Their work was recognised in 2000 when they were awarded a prestigious Certificate of Association by the R.S.P.C.A.

Tony Roberts has lived in the south east Spain since 2001. He is now an established estate agent in the region of Costa Calida and has written a free e-book “How to Buy a Property in Spain”, to receive your copy contact Tony at

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