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Rise in the number of ferry-goers taking their pets abroad

It seems holiday-goers are finding it increasingly hard to leave their pets at home when taking the ferry abroad, according to figures from Brittany Ferries.

Of the 2,605,972 passengers who travelled to and from France and Spain in 2015, 67,462 pets were brought along for the journey. That’s one in 40. Or if you factor in the 862,461 cars ferried over the same period, there was a pet in every one in 12 cars onboard.

It witnessed a 78 per cent increase in the number of pets taken onboard between 2008 and 2016. The total went up 17 per cent in 2015 alone, to 67,482, rising from 57,670 in 2014. 

Cats and dogs, which can travel under the ‘pet passport’ scheme that allows cats, dogs and ferrets to travel throughout the EU without quarantine, were the most common pets owners brought along. 

But the full list included guinea pigs, parrots, fish, amphibians, budgies, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils and even reptiles – Noah’s Ark, eat your heart out. 

You won’t see a rabbit, however, because its ships are crewed by French staff and they traditionally refuse to sail on a ship because of a superstition that is said to date back to the 17th century. 

Legend has it that a rabbit bit through the hold of a warship, killing hundreds of passengers. For that reason, Bugs Bunny is never shown in a Brittany ferry, rabbit is never served in the restaurant and there are no chocolate rabbits to buy in the shop. 

Brittany Ferries believes the increase is down to pet owners benefiting from the aforementioned pet passport scheme that came into effect in 2001, which makes it cheaper and easier for Brits to take their pets abroad.  

Prior to 2001, rules were much stricter. Owners needed to vaccinate their pet six months before travel and have a blood test to prove it was successful. Since 2012, a vaccination only needs to be done 21 days ahead of travel and the expensive blood test is no longer necessary. 

Other reasons cited include the ludicrous cost of kennels, as Brittany Ferries general manager Christiane Barker explained: “Boarding kennels can cost as much as £150 a week in London, and more than £100 a week in outside the capital.” 

But he added it’s also because owners find it hard to leave their furry friends behind: “Aside from the money, there’s the emotional cost of leaving a key member of the family behind. More people want to take the family pet on holiday, particularly as many properties make no charge.” 

Although most travellers leave their pets in the car during the trip, Brittany Ferries has dog-specific facilities including 66 kennels on the Pont-Aven ship and 14 pet-friendly cabins on the Baie de Seine. There are now 114 across its fleet in addition to open deck walking areas. 

Brittany Ferries also recently expanded the number of pet-friendly places to stay on its website, taking the total to more than 800.

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