Many European countries are extremely dog-friendly. Countries such as Germany, France and Holland have liberal policies that allow people to bring their furry companion into most establishments. Others such as Great Britain and Spain tend to have the tightest restrictions on where you can travel, relax and play together. Before deciding to visit Europe with your dogs, consider whether or not the trip will do more harm than good for your animals.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends against flying pets in an airline's cargo section. There is a great risk of accidental death due to destabilized cabin pressure, extreme temperature changes and rough handling by airline staff. However, if you have the means to pay for a charter plane, it can be one of the best and safest ways to travel. Charter plane companies such as Elite Jets and Jetset Charter offer private plane rentals to anywhere in the world, including Europe. They allow an animal to roam freely in the passenger cabin and some will provide special meals on request.
Toy breeds have it easy when it comes to flying. If a dog is small enough to fit in a crate that can be stowed below the seat in front of you, many airlines will it to travel in the cabin. Before booking a flight, check with your airline. Some airlines require a separate ticket while others limit the number of pets that can travel on each flight. Always confirm your dogs' reservations well in advance of your journey and during the week you are traveling.
Caution: Canines as Cargo
Larger dogs who can't fit underneath an airline seat must fly as cargo – a dangerous proposition to many dogs, especially short-muzzled breeds like boxers and pugs, who sometimes find it difficult to breathe under normal atmospheric conditions much less the dramatically changing ones found in the cargo section of an airplane. Dogs have died during airline transportation, and as a consequence, some airlines have disallowed pets to fly as cargo. Before choosing an airline, check out the US Department of Transportation's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, which lists the number of complaints regarding each airlines' treatment of animals.
Hit the High Seas
Luxury cruise line Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (QM2) is the only ship that allows the transatlantic transportation of dogs. Pets are treated to deluxe kennels and a full-time pet master who provides care. Although dogs must remain in the kennels or in the adjacent exercise area, owners can visit their dogs during designated hours. All pet passengers receive a biscuit with nightly turn-down service as well as a free gift pack and personalized cruise card.
Whether flying or sailing with your dogs to Europe, there's no avoiding pre-trip paperwork that ensures all of the proper documentation is handled to satisfy customs agents at any European destination. All require current vaccinations and microchips as well as an official certificate of health signed by an authorized veterinarian. Stricter countries such as the United Kingdom require extra documentation to avoid lengthy quarantines after arriving. Countries within the European Union require owners to complete paperwork for a pet passport, which can be lengthy but once approved will enable the dog to freely travel anywhere with you for their entire lives.