It's vacation time. You and your family would like to take a weekend trip or travel for a week or two.
You also have the responsibility of a family pet, so what are your options? Depending on the type of vacation that you are taking, you could bring your pet with you or have someone watch your pet while you are away.
If you plan on taking your pet with you, you will need to find a place that will accommodate pets.
"Vacationing with Your Pet," by Eileen Barish, is a comprehensive guide to pet-friendly lodging throughout the United States and Canada. The directory lists more than 23,000 hotels, motels, inns, ranches and bed-and-breakfasts that welcome guests traveling with their pets. Policies and charges vary from place to place depending on the pet's size and type. Always call in advance to assure a reservation.
When traveling by car with your pet, you should make a few choices before beginning your vacation.
Some pets are accustomed to traveling in a carrier. Others may be secured to the back seat using a special seat harness.
Always secure your pet for safety. It is dangerous to let an animal ride loose in the car or in the back of a pickup truck. Small animals can crawl behind the gas or brake pedals. Animals sitting in your lap can interfere with steering. In an accident, pets can be easily crushed or thrown from the car.
Always have proper identification on the animal's collar. If your pet should become lost, the person who finds it would have information on how to return your pet to its home.
When stopping for breaks you'll need to pay attention to two things: leash safety and tools for cleanup. You can comfortably walk a cat with a harness. Never let a dog out of the car without being on a leash.
Let your pet have a drink and stretch and walk the same as you would. Never leave a pet in a car unattended.
Don't forget the pooper-scooper and plastic bags for cleanup.
Pets on planes
If you choose to travel by plane, always take the same flight as your pet. Make sure the kennel is regulation and marked with proper identification. Also make sure destination information is written on the side. Make sure your pet has been put on board before you board. Book only direct, nonstop flights.
Check the airline's travel record for its care of pets, because there are many reports of animals' dying from lack of water, intense heat or cold.
If you are flying in the summer, early morning or late evening is best. In the winter, book afternoon flights. Travel on weekdays during off-hours rather than on hectic weekends.
With the new restrictions on airline security and time delays, you may want to make different travel arrangements for your pet.
If you are not taking your pet with you on vacation, you will need to find a reliable, responsible option.
A friend, relative or neighbor is usually the first preference. They typically know your pet's personality and habits. The pet knows them. They can stay at your home or make frequent visits. If you can keep your pet in its own home, it will be less anxious that you are gone.
Second, you could try a pet-sitting service. Prices vary according to the number of pets and the number of times you request they visit your home daily. Your pet will be watered, fed, exercised, brushed and medications given when necessary. Leave plenty of supplies for the caregiver like food, treats and special toys. In addition, leave information about exercise times, medications and the veterinarian's phone number in case of an emergency.
Pet sitters can also provide mail pickup, plant care and security checks. They can change the lights and curtains daily. For your protection, ask for references and make sure your pet sitter is bonded and insured. You will need to make reservations well in advance especially around holidays and busy vacations times.
You can also try a kennel. Kennels offer a place to take your pet when it cannot stay in its own home. If you like the concept of kenneling, begin a dog at an early age because it is difficult for an older pet to adjust to a kennel situation.
Always look for clean, well-kept facilities with an exercise area. Avoid kennels where you are not permitted to observe the facility. Ask friends, veterinarians, and your local animal shelter for references to reputable kennels.
Vacations can be fun for everyone, including the family pet. Knowing that your pet is being well taken care of will put all members of the family at ease. Never leave your pet alone, even for a day. Your pet may become sick or spill its water. If left too long, it will soil your home for lack of choice. Your pet deserves to be comfortable while you are away.
XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.