Animal Adventures

Aotearoa has few peers when it comes to pet ownership. According to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, around two-thirds of all homes house at least one pet, with cats found in just under half of all Kiwi homes, and pooches in around a third. Earlier this year it was revealed that the country’s canine ownership is rising so dramatically that, in every major city except Auckland, it even outstrips human population growth. Of the well over half a million registered dogs in New Zealand, Dunedin accounts for the highest concentration—its approximately 17,500 mutts means there’s one for around every seven people—while Hamilton’s dog ownership nearly doubled between 2012 and 2018. Auckland has the most hounds with 103,000.


Such statistics mirror many international trends meaning related industries are booming also. In the US, where animal ownership has tripled since the 1970s, nearly $80 billion is spent annually on pets. More than a third of Americans give their pooch a birthday gift, and 27 percent have had their pets snapped by a professional photographer. Norwegians spend the most money feeding their dogs (around $1,000 per year), while Australians spend more than $12 billion annually on pet products and services—a staggering 42 percent increase between 2013 and 2016. In the USA, the pet industry is worth a cool $110 billion. Ninety-five percent of  New Zealanders consider their pets to be part of the family.


So, is it any wonder that more and more folk are also taking their furry friends travelling?


According to the National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, around 37 percent of US pet owners vacation with their pets—up from 19 percent a decade ago. The number was even higher for TripAdvisor’s ‘travelling with pets’ survey whereby 53 percent of respondents saying they holidayed with their animals.

One such example is Auckland-based photographer Vanessa Lewis who recently embarked on a business trip to Paris with her family which comprises husband Michael, daughter Nina, fox terrier poodle cross Billy (“full of beans and loves cuddles”), and Sparkles the Devon Rex cat (“very independent and rules the kingdom—much to my husband’s amusement!”). 

“We will be away for longer than three months, so considering the costs of kennelling and insurance, combined with the separation aspect, it just seemed like a better option,” says Vanessa. “While we found it quite restrictive in New Zealand, in Europe you can travel with your pets on public transport, and take them to restaurants, too. It has been very easy to find accommodation, from B&Bs to hotel chains, there are many to choose from who are pet-friendly.”


Who have been the most impressive so far?


“We have stayed in three different places. The Mercure hotel was extremely accommodating with few restrictions, our pets could basically do what they want—providing they were well-behaved and toilet trained!”


Before taking overseas trips with your four-legged friends, first visit your vet for a check-up and a certificate if required. Airlines can only accept animals that are older than eight weeks, healthy and non-aggressive. (Some airlines will not transport certain dog breeds such as the Brazilian fila, Japanese tosa, American pit bull, and dogo Argentino.) Before the trip, it’s recommended that your animal get used to its travel crate while still at home, and make sure the crate is airline-approved. Be sure to check out your airline’s specific requirements for transporting animals, and pets should not be sedated unless advised to do so by your vet.


“If they have a favourite toy, put it in their travel cage for the journey,” says Vanessa. “Buy extra bedding, and a have a bowl of food at hand when you collect them as they don’t get fed on the journey. Their bedding will most probably be wet as they can’t get to the toilet (we did have pet pee pads, but it’s no guarantee!) so have some pet shampoo ready too. Or, instead of a bath, you could find a parlour upon your arrival, but they’d probably most rather spend time with you bonding after the long trip.”

Vanessa also advises getting to know the pet travel company people as they play a massive role in the process: “Our pets spent a night with them before going to the airport. They had them in their house as opposed to a shop or factory set up.”


Upon arriving, the family had to hire a van as “two pet carrier cages take up a lot of space along with all the luggage too!”.


Have the pets enjoyed the trip so far?


“They take a day or two to settle in, but we take them with is wherever we go so that they don’t feel too alone in the brand new environment.”


As for whether they’d do it all over again, Vanessa says without question, as it’s “way better to have them with us than worry about them from afar,” plus, “my daughter is far too attached to them to be separated from them for too long!”.


Follow Vanessa’s journey on Instagram, @vanessalewis or check out her website