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According to the ancient Chinese calendar, we just crossed over into the Year of the Dog. Why not show Fido or Fifi just how much you love them this year with a special trip away? People love their pets -- so much so that there is an entire sub-industry out there of pet related leisure wear, accessories and travel gadgets. There is also a plethora of travel sites aimed at pet owners looking for resources, tips, information, accommodations and booking services.

  • Traveling Pets (www.travelingpets.com) provides a complete guide to dog-friendly accommodations across the United States and Canada. You can search for a place to stay by categories including B&Bs, cabins, resorts, dude ranches (in six states), condo rentals and, of course, clothing optional lodging (there are four listings in this last category; two in California, one in New Mexico and one in New York).
  • Pets Welcome (www.petswelcome.com) refers to itself as the internet's largest pet/travel resource. The site features listings for over 25,000 hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, ski resorts, campgrounds, and beaches that are pet-friendly. They also have a travel tips section to learn how to take your pet anywhere and their Info Xchange section -- a pet lover's chat room of sorts.
  • Pets On The Go (www.petsonthego.com) provides per-lovers with information about air, sea, and land pet transportation, pet recreational resources, pet friendly restaurants, shops and tours, and rules for domestic and international pet travel. They also feature dog-sitter recommendations, advice of pet-friendly beaches and even how to charter a boat with pets. Their personalized individual pet travel consultation, where staff will guide users through the planning of a pet-friendly US vacation is a pay for use service. My favorite part of the site is the boutique of pet travel accessories and necessities including the Planet Dog travel bed, Tailwagger first aid kit and Doggles (goggles for dogs) to name a few must-have doggy essentials.
  • Pettravel (tel. 866/403-9330; www.pettravel.us), an affiliate of Motels.com, is a booking service dedicated to finding pet-friendly accommodation across the US. The accommodation options cover everything from basic motels to five-star hotels.
  • Trips With Pets (www.tripswithpets.com) customers can save 10% off regular room rates when making pet-friendly hotel bookings at La Quinta Inn and Suites or Baymont Inn and Suites properties.
  • PetTravel.com (www.pettravel.com) is a worldwide travel guide site for pets featuring everything from immigration and quarantine information to traveling by ship and ferries.
  • For pet owners living in and around New York City, Urban Hound (www.urbanhound.com) is a great resource for getting your pooch out of the city and into the fresh air. It features information about getaways that are within easy driving distance, including National Parks and camps.

Traveling with your pets should be a pleasant and comfortable experience for everyone. If flying or going on a particularly long drive, you should always check with your Veterinarian before you travel. Keep you animal happy and secure by bringing his or her any required medications. If at all possible, maintain your pet's regular feeding and walking schedules. While staying at a hotel, if barking may be an issue because your dog is in unfamiliar territory, a portable kennel can¿provide a safe and familiar environment. If you pet is used to sleeping on your bed, make sure you bring a special sheet or blanket to use. It is best not to leave your pet in the room unattended and you should always clean up after your pet.¿

Many larger middle to low-priced hotel chains across America and Canada have begun to open their hotel room sup to pets and their owners. Comfort Inn and Suites has over 550 pet-friendly properties in the US, Travelodge (www.travelodge.com) has in excess of 250, certain Intercontinental Hotels (www.intercontinental.com) allow pets under 25 pounds, Novotel Hotels (www.novotel.com) in New York and in Canada welcome a maximum of two animals (cats and dogs) per room and never require a fee and Holiday Inn (www.holidayinn.com) has more than 450 pet-friendly locations around the country.

The "Loews Loves Pets" program at Loews Hotels (tel. 800/23-LOEWS; www.loewshotels.com) is an example of a luxury hotel chain that has taken the "pets welcome" theme to a higher level. They have a "Pampered Pets Package" that includes accommodation at a Loews hotel, a free in-room movie, a dinner for two in a designated hotel restaurant, and a room service meal for your pet. Each of their properties also features a pet room service menu, developed and approved by a licensed veterinarian, offering balanced, nutritional meals and snacks to help pets deal with travel stress. There are cat and dog specialties and health conscious pets can even enjoy vegetarian entr¿es. Beverage carts offer bottled water and milk and a wide selection of dry and canned pet foods is also available.

Unlike certain other properties, Loews is upfront about its flat fee for having your pets stay with you at their hotels. This cost covers the expenses associated with the extra special attention we pay to cleaning and maintaining your room so that it stays fresh for both pets and owners. Rates for the Pampered Pet Package and pet room service items vary according to the individual property. 

When flying with pets, it is important to check with the particular airlines either by telephone or on sites as regulations differ on various carriers and for international travel, always contact an embassy or consulate for quarantine regulations. Some airlines allow passengers to carry dogs within the cabin, whereas others only accept dogs as cargo and for a pet owner this can make or break a booking more than saving a few dollars on a fare when comparing airlines. Certain airlines, like Southwest Airlines do not accept pets as accompanied baggage, either in the cabin or in the cargo area, while others impose weight restrictions (only small animals under a specified weight are allowed in the cabin) so it is essential that you check with the individual airline prior to making your flight booking. Other airlines may charge a per-pet fee -- usually between $25 and $100. The Humane Society of America (www.hsus.org) has a useful summary of airline pet transport policies for domestic carriers on its site and www.pettravel.com lists international carrier regulations as well.

The US Department of State provides guidelines for people traveling internationally with their pets. Information is available at its site (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/pets.html).

In recent years (check for updates), dogs and cats could enter Canada if accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, which clearly identified the dogs /cats and shows that they were currently vaccinated. This certificate must identify the dog/cat, as in breed, color, weight, etc., plus indicate the name of the licensed rabies vaccine used (trade name), serial number and duration of validity (up to 3 years). There is no waiting period between the time the dog/cat is vaccinated for rabies and the time it is imported into Canada. Caged birds are allowed entry into Canada but must be found to be healthy when inspected at the port of entry. The owner must sign a declaration stating that the birds have been in his/her possession for the ninety-day period preceding the date of entry and have not been in contact with any other birds during that time.

For specific information on the importation of other kinds of pets into Canada, see the Canadian Government site at www.inspection.gc.ca and search "travel with pets."

Although we have concentrated mainly on local pet travel (US and Canada), there will be occasions when you would like your furry (or hairy) friend to accompany you on a trip further a field.

To bring your dog, cat or, strangely, ferret, to the United Kingdom and most of the European Union member countries, you must have it first micro-chipped, then vaccinated against rabies and then blood-tested. Find out current rules at https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/overview.