Privileged Pets...And You

15 July 2009 By Claire Griffiths

The old seadog owners or the “nouveaux bateaux” brigade are a breed apart from the rest of us – a cat's whisker away from March hare madness. If you can cope with them and their hornets' nests of mad-cappery – then there's a good chance you'll take to handling their pets on board – like...ermmm...ducks to water....

Being prepared wins you half the battle – but being prepared and ready for anything wins the rest. Take Christopher Sardo, former captain of S/Y Gray Lady. He was driving to the boat to prepare for a round the world trip one day when he found little Gigi by the side of the road – a stray kitten of a few months old (check out her pics below). He tried to find friends to take her in but with only a few days to go before departure, he wasn't able to do so. “So the owner told me to bring her with us and Gigi grew up on board. Gigi was not a problem,” says Capt. Christopher. “There was lots for her to play with, she could handle the boat movement, had plenty of places to hide, and at night she would go up on the foredeck to feed off the flying fish and squid that

were washed on board.” The cat litter meant she kept clean and never needed to go shore side for a pee.

But dogs are a different kettle of fish...and many is the captain who starts growling if you start going “woof woof.” One captain who chooses to remain anonymous remembers an owner and his bitch. “It was a female dog about the size of a large rat that used to be a regular on board. One of her many idiosyncrasies was that she would only do her personal business on natural grass,” he says.  “On one trip they brought an ingeniously devised one meter square shallow box planted with grass. That served just fine until the mate noticed some bugs in the grass and sprayed what he thought was pesticide (the label was in Turkish) on the grass. It was actually the equivalent of Lysol and the grass died instantly. For the next couple of days our trip revolved around twice daily shore trips in search of natural grass. On the third day they gave up and the owner's 'other half' ordered the dog to be evacuated by ship's helicopter.” The captain says, “During her first ride in a helicopter the terrified pooch overcame her phobia about grass and made a fine mess in the passenger seat. Needless to say, she has been canine non grata since that unfortunate event.”

According to Capt. Alan of M/Y Magnum, the best test to decide if you will take a dog on board should involve “wind-tunnel testing.” “You don't want dogs on board that molt – or you'll spend your life washing down everything,” he says. And Capt. Alan knows, having done a season in the Med last year with a chocolate Lab.

Lifelong sailor and editor of Mer et Bateaux, Felix Aubry de La Noe, remembers one fateful sail to Corsica with a dachshund who just couldn't “go” on board. With the island still out of sight of the human eye, she smelled terra firma and knew which way the wind blew for her. She was last seen doggie paddling towards the La Revelatta lighthouse – hundreds of miles from a little light relief. But others, like solo navigator Joel Charpentier wouldn't go anywhere without his pooch, and sailed in the first Route du Rhum solo race with his very own “man's best friend.”

Capt. Hugo (yacht undisclosed) claims to have fond memories of several show standard pets on board at the MIPIM show in Cannes this year. “On the whole they were well behaved and quite well house trained except when it came to keeping their kennel tidy. They would pull their bedding around and leave their leads on the floor,” he says. “And because they were prize examples they were difficult to feed, preferring more liquids than solid food.” And guess what, yup, he's talking about the guests, not their pets.

The European Commission states that pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) moving between EU member states (other than Ireland, Sweden, Malta and the UK) must have an EU Passport – which means a valid vaccination for travel across borders.

An electronic microchip (transponder) will allow for easy identification of the animals and connecting the pet to the passport. Until July 3, 2011, a tattoo will be allowed as a way to identify the animal, except for the UK, Ireland and Malta, which already now require the transponder.

Young pets that cannot be vaccinated yet may be allowed to travel without vaccination on the conditions defined by each member state. For the entry of animals into Ireland, Sweden, Malta or the United Kingdom, antibody titration (a test to see if the vaccine has been effective) needs to be carried out after the vaccination. The EU pet passport has been designed to last for the lifetime of the animal bearing it. When travelling, the pet owner must ensure that the rabies vaccination in the passport is valid or renew the pet's vaccination. Specific countries within the EU refuse entry to some “aggressive” breeds that do not have the correct breeding documentation.