The risks of travelling with pets across borders with Englishmen around I’m not…
The risks of travelling with pets across borders with Englishmen around I’m not a dog-lover but, reader, I am married to one. That’s why I’ve had to learn to put up with certain attitudes and unusual behaviours that I had not heard of before the marriage. As soon as I read about passports for pets, I told my husband to get them. And when he did, I agreed to taking our pets to New York with us on a long journey.
I can understand all the reasons why dog lovers are throwing their mutts in the back of the car and taking them for a seaside vacation. First of all, it’s much cheaper than keeping them in a pet hotel. Besides, dogs like being with their owners. Moreover, since they need a walk twice a day no matter where they are, it’s more fun for both dog and walker to walk along a beach than down the street and back. Same with horses: you must either ride them out yourself or pay somebody else to do it, so if you can afford to take them along on a trip, why not?
Pet passports seem to be both a modernising and democratising thing to have done. I remember having lunch with a French millionaire who told me he loved working in London but it was exhausting going backwards and forwards every weekend. I thought that he missed his family, but he was talking about his dog. “He is with my mother in Paris. He is so miserable, he makes her miserable, too.”
The thing was, he said, it would be so easy for him to bring his dog illegally to the UK. He had friends with boats; they went backwards and forwards across the Channel all the time; they knew tiny ports, they were good navigators, they could land him and Toto at dead of night and there could be a discreet car waiting.
So why didn’t he do that? He said he asked one of his oldest friends to consider the chances of getting caught. The friend said he wouldn’t get caught. But he added, “Your English neighbours would inform on you.” I was very angry. How dare he! We’re not like that! But almost instantly, I knew he was right. Some years ago, I nearly got a penalty for bringing my pet into the country without declaring it to Customs.
OK, not my pet — my 12-year-old daughter’s pet. She had risen early on our last day in Marrakesh and sneaked into the street, where Tortoise Man was selling tiny tortoises who were not feeling well in the heat. We’d seen them twice. She’d begged me to buy one, and I’d said, “No, you can’t just take animals into England!” So she’d bought one herself. She didn’t tell me about it until we had gone through security. Then she dragged me to the ladies’ room and showed me what she had in her lumpy carry-on bag. She was blushing scarlet. There was one tortoise and some lettuce. I was furious. They called our ﬂ ight. I said I’d carry them. After I walked through “Nothing to Declare” with a small tortoise in my handbag, I was stopped by a woman officer who asked me to empty my bags.
She knew, and I knew she knew, though I couldn’t fathom how she knew. After the long and deeply embarrassing interview was over; after I had blustered and blethered until it became clear that, having seized the tortoise, she wasn’t actually going to have me arrested, I asked: how did she know? She said, “It was a fellow-passenger on your ﬂight who informed us. He saw your daughter with the box and guessed what was in it, and then she opened it on the aircraft and he saw the tortoise.”
Was he English? I asked her, shocked. She said, “Oh, yes,” and rage ﬂooded through me: it was not only a fellow-traveller, it was a fellowcountryman as well! How could he?!! “He’s only just left,” she said. “He wanted to see if it all ended right. He’s a tortoise-lover.”
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The French millionaire friend advised against taking the pet across the border because ...
- it was almost impossible to accomplish.
- the people living nearby might tell the police.
- it could only be done at night when it's dark.
- he needed a special permit to do that.
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