Plenty of boat owners venture afloat with their furry friends, but there are plenty of considerations to be made before they do so. So if you are new to being a pet owner - or even new to a life on the ocean wave, then here is some advice we have pulled together to aid you in your adventures.
No old sea-dog would want to face the cat for failing to follow the rules, so here are a few ideas for anyone setting sail with pets.
You could of course be travelling with any creature – after all the range of animals kept as pets is huge. But here we will focus on the primary concern – rabies – and how the need to prevent it’s entry to the UK is implemented. This of course means that we are looking at the carriers of the disease – dogs, cats and ferrets.
A good place to begin is with the RYA on their webpage http://www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/boatingabroad/Pages/pets.aspx
The simple rule is that pets cannot come ashore without licensed quarantine in the UK from any private boat (or plane) that is arriving from any port outside the UK, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
They CAN enter from EU ports by way of a recognised carrier operating under the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme; so for example this is what allows pets to be carried in and out of Millbay’s Brittany Ferries terminal.
This a pretty in-depth subject and for the full detail – especially if you are travelling beyond the EU – can be found here https://www.gov.uk/pet-travel-information-for-pet-owners
One point to note is that ALL dogs in the UK will be required to be microchipped by April 2016!
Beyond the requirements of the law there are a many considerations that can make life afloat for you pet safer, healthier and more pleasant for all concerned.
Perhaps the first thing most owners will think of is a flotation jacket (incorporating a handy grab-handle) for your dog. There are plenty of pets that ‘eat’ the bow wave!
Swimming and Rescue drills need to be planned for - how will you recover your pet from the water? (Boathook or large net? If a cat, a length of carpet or net draped over the side can allow for self-rescue.)
Believe it or not, another consideration if you are at sea for an extended length of time in sunny conditions is sun-blindness! The constant glare from the white surfaces in sunnier climes gives the same problem as if on snow in the mountains – humans happily don sunglasses but what about the dog? Happily the solution was a pair of ‘doggles’ ( http://doggles.uk.com/ ) – but the dog will have to learn to wear them!
Little boat shoes like these can not only stop them slipping over (and falling in) but can also protect the boat from scratches and the tender from punctures!
There has to be a chance that your pet will wander off, especially around a strange marina or port – so consider how effectively you pet is marked.
Microchipping is a part of this, but make sure the animal’s collar carries an up-to-date tag with contact details. It could mean a rapid return – and possibly the saving of a large fee for retrieving Rover from the dog pound!
If your pet is a cat it will probably train you far more effectively than you can train it so let us stick with canines.
Getting down to business
Just like people, any animal new to boating will need some training and acclimatisation to life afloat. Toilet training can be problematic, and it can be worth getting a square of plastic-turf which a dog can be trained to use as it’s toilet area (yes, really!) Keeping a box of grass/earth can also work.
Motion sickness can also affect animals, but your vet will be able to advise on medication. Surfaces, especially wet decks, can be tricky for animals, and you may have to add anti-slip surfacing if you see a problem.