Everything you need to know about vacation care for pets
Summer is upon us and many Irish families will soon be going on holiday. It’s fine to pack up and walk out the front door, but if you have a pet, you may need to consider how your pet will be cared for in your absence.
Traditionally, there was only one option available to pet owners; pension for dogs or cattery for cats. It’s still a good option for many situations, but in 2022 there are other options that many may not be aware of.
Unlike many other countries, in Ireland there are no formal regulations governing the standards of pet boarding. Anyone can set up this kind of service, as long as they pay attention to building permit issues (and indeed, many don’t even do that). This lack of regulation means that it is up to pet owners to do their own research to check the quality of the places and services offered. A useful shortcut is to seek out a member of the Irish Boarding Kennels or Catteries Association (ibkca.ie), as these companies are held to specific standards.
Most boarding schools are significantly oversubscribed during the summer months, with reservations having to be made several weeks in advance. If you choose this option, you should ideally arrange a short preliminary trial stay for your pets, perhaps over a long weekend. This will allow you to understand how the establishment works and how your pets get along during their stay.
Some people make a seasonal career for themselves by moving into people’s homes while they are on vacation. They charge a daily rate (from 20€ to 40€), but they can provide many advantages: taking care of pets (including feeding them, walking them, caring for them if necessary and simply keeping them company), watering plants, tending to the garden, and providing that extra security of a continuous human presence in your home. Many petsitters market their services by word of mouth, but there are now websites that provide a useful central marketplace for petsitters (e.g. petsittersireland.com) and there are additional benefits such as the quality control of pet sitters, as well as insurance coverage. Individual arrangements can be made for you and your pets: you can have someone visit your home once or twice a day, or you can have someone live. Everything is subject to discussion and negotiation.
A more recent and more affordable innovation is to list your accommodation on a specialized site (trustedhousesitters.com) which allows you to create a profile of your house as a holiday destination, so that a pet from abroad can come and stay. your house. at home, keep your pets free while they enjoy their vacation. Reviews on the site allow you to check the profiles and experiences of potential candidates.
Other websites (Gudog.com or petsittersireland.com) allow you to find pet lovers who will care for your pets in their homes. For dogs in particular, this may be the closest option to their normal life, and therefore arguably the least stressful. They can live in a normal family, settling into a daily routine similar to their usual routine, with walks, rest times, meals and family time. Again, it makes sense to give it a try before a longer vacation: have the pet sitter cover a weekend for you, and make sure your pet enjoys the experience.
Many people use this same principle but without paying anyone, giving their pet to a friend or family member. While there are circumstances where this can work, it can be a huge “demand”, putting pressure on your own relationship with the person helping you. And by the time you’ve bought thank you gifts at the end of your vacation, you might start to think that just paying someone who chooses to keep pets in their home as a semi-professional can make more sense.
In recent years, Ireland has become a much more pet-friendly country. Many rental properties, hotels and guesthouses now allow you to bring a dog or cat for a nominal additional fee, and pets are allowed in many restaurants and in many more public places than in the past. So if you have a staycation, there’s a real possibility that it makes sense to bring your pet with you. You should plan this carefully, checking in advance if pets are allowed. Dedicated websites facilitate your research (dogfriendlyireland.ie or discoveryireland.ie).
It is now easier to take your pet with you abroad, especially when traveling to other EU countries. The basic requirements are to have your pet microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. Your local veterinarian can provide you with a “pet passport” which contains details of your pet’s identity and vaccination status. Special doses of dewormer, administered by your overseas veterinarian, are also required immediately before you return to Ireland.
Vacations don’t have to be stressful for pets, and with thought and planning, they can be very enjoyable.