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Europe for Pets

Europe pet travel dogs cats LEFT: In Venice, as elsewhere in Europe, a dog can be a traveler's best friend..

When I was a boy traveling in Southern Europe with my parents, our family's collie was welcomed everywhere--from a deluxe hotel in Seville, where the local children cried "Lassie!", to the casino gardens in Estoril, Portugal.

In nearly 40 years of subsequent visits to Europe, I've had many other occasions to witness the friendliness that most European countries display toward pets:

  • Dogs on trains (I once moved the tail of a German Shepherd from the aisle of a Swiss express train to save it from being stepped on).

  • Dogs on cable cars (more specifically, a massive Alsatian ascending to the Dachstein Glacier in Austria in the company of a German couple in matching checked shirts and Lederhosen).

  • Dogs in restaurants (My wife and I witnessed a dog being served dinner in a restaurant at the Bern, Switzerland train station, and a neighborhood eatery in Lagos, Portugal had a dog that happily accepted tidbits from the customers).

  • Dogs in stores (among them, a brace of whippets in a Zürich department store and an Old English Sheepdog that took up an aisle in a Salzburg stationery shop).

  • Dog-loving police and customs officials (most notably the French policeman who blew kisses at our wire-haired fox terrier as we took our dogs ashore from a Russian liner for a stroll in Le Havre).

  • Cats in Venice sleeping en masse on park benches, being fed by neighborhood residents, and being protected by an Italian law that gives them the right to spend their lives where they were born. (See my Cats of Venice and Venice's Oldest Cat? articles for more on Venetian friendliness toward felines.)

Granted, not all European business establishments (or even hotels) welcome pets. But in general, pets get more respect in Europe than they do in North America, and you'll find more places where you can take your dog or cat than you would at home.

Should you go through the hassle of taking your pet abroad? If you're going for only a few weeks, the answer is probably "no" unless you're driving or your dog or cat is small enough to travel with you in an airliner's cabin. However, if you're visiting Europe for an extended period, taking your pet with you is an option worth considering. The Web sites on page 2 will help you reach a decision and minimize the trauma of travel for your cat or dog.

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