Information about pet food, insurance, breed bans, and more to keep your full-timing pet safe and happy.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Traveling with pets is easier than ever. More campgrounds accept pets these days, and off-leash exercise areas are more readily available. Many other changes affect pet travel, too, some of them good and some more troublesome. Here is what’s new for motorhome travelers with pets.
Pet food online. Ordering pet food online and having it delivered to the campground is a convenience for RV travelers and a lifesaver for those whose pets require hard-to-find products. Websites include www.petflow.com, www.petfooddirect.com, www.mrchewy.com, and www.wag.com.
Our veterinarian advised that maintaining the pet’s regular diet is important, so it’s best to keep an ample supply of any food in the motorhome, even if your pet eats a supermarket brand. Not all brands are available in the small country stores you encounter during your travels, and any change in diet should be introduced gradually by mixing it with the old brand. When shopping for an online supplier, look first for availability of your brand.
Second, compare costs, including shipping. At Wag.com and MrChewy.com, orders totaling more than $49 ship for free; PetFlow ships for free if the order is more than $59. These sites offer coupons, points, referral bonuses, and other perks. PetFlow, for example, pays $30 if you refer a customer who makes a qualifying purchase. Explore all options.
Dangerous-dog bans. The adage “Every dog is allowed one bite” is no longer true. PetPlace.com cites one study that found dog bites to be the principal reason for homeowner lawsuits, with financial settlements amounting to more than $16,000 per bite. It’s no surprise that your insurer may ask whether you have a dog and, if so, what breed. Coverage could be denied or your rates increased.
It’s almost impossible for full-timers to keep up with changing laws regarding “dangerous” dog breeds. The pro-dog group Dog Politics (www.dogpolitics.com) has found that 75 dog breeds have at some time or place been banned or threatened with bans.
When a city passes a ban, it’s usually specific to the breed. The breed may be prohibited from the city limits completely or allowed if it’s been neutered, had a microchip inserted under its skin, is insured, and is muzzled and leashed when in public. The dog also must be current on its shots.
Some breeds are “grandfathered” if they were owned and trouble-free before the ban went into effect. Because vicious dogs are often used by criminals to guard chop shops or areas where drugs are made or sold, some municipalities prohibit convicted felons from owning certain breeds. To make things even more confusing, some bans are statewide while most are municipal. It’s controversial, it’s highly emotional, and it’s a moving target.
Florida, for example, retired a statewide dog-profiling law but the ban remains in Miami-Dade County. The ban recently came under fire when newly signed Miami Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle discovered he couldn’t live in Miami-Dade County because his family owns a rescued American Staffordshire terrier, which is one of the dogs on the ban list. So, the family made their home in Broward County but have taken up the fight to have the ban repealed. Bottom line: stay current on what laws and insurance coverage mean to you according to where you are going and what pet(s) you have.
Crossing borders. Before taking a pet into Canada or into the United States from Canada, brush up on the requirements and prohibitions. Go to the Canada Border Services Agency’s “Visitors to Canada” section at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/visit-eng.html for Canadian entry laws. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Info Center page at https://help.cbp.gov/app/home/search/1 for information about entering the United States with pets, including birds.
Bringing pet foods into the U.S. has its own regulations, because of concerns about what is commonly called mad cow disease. Prohibited are Canadian pet foods in any form (canned, frozen, dry) that contain sheep (mutton), lamb, or goat meat. Keep labels and grocery store receipts so you can show where products were purchased and packaged. Easier still, donate leftover food to a pet shelter before leaving Canada and then restock after crossing the border.
To take your pet to Mexico, you’ll need a health certificate issued by a licensed state veterinarian and proof of rabies and distemper vaccination at least 15 days prior.
Pet medical insurance. Having pet health insurance has become somewhat common for owners, but like most types of insurance, it’s a huge and confusing puzzle. Cost is based on your “home” zip code plus the type of pet, its age, and its past health history. The type of coverage can range from full medical, prescription, and dental to a la carte or limited services. For full-timers the most important step is to find a policy served by a national network of veterinary clinics. Many policies are local or regional. They may not cover emergency treatment elsewhere and probably do not cover routine shots and checkups except with your “home” vet.
New trends. Look for these new wrinkles to make travel with pets easier. Services may not be available in all areas, but ask around locally.
- Pet groomers who make house calls in a van or RV equipped as a pet-grooming studio.
- Kennels, too, have gone the luxury route. If you must board your pet, shop around for one of the new pet resorts that have large exercise runs, comfortable shelters, premium food, and lots of loving attention.
- Pet sitters who are members of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (www.petsitters.org) are screened, trained, and well-qualified. Some sitters can come to your motorhome by the hour; some accept pets into their homes.
- Lost pets are found in a variety of ways. Having a microchip embedded under your pet’s skin is recommended, but it’s just a start. The finder may not check for a chip, or if a valuable pet were stolen, a thief wouldn’t read the chip except, perhaps, to hold you up for a reward.
- It’s difficult for full-timers to be aware of all the poisonous plants in the areas where one travels. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) now posts pictures to familiarize pet owners with harmful vegetation. Go to www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants for listings of plants poisonous to dogs, cats, and other animals.
A large assortment of “lost pet” services can be found through an Internet search. Some are strictly local, which is no help if your dog is with a cross-country traveler. Some services are very expensive. Some are scams. The bottom line is that the moment a pet goes missing, search your motorhome and the surrounding area. (Cats and small dogs have been found inside sofa beds and other small hiding spaces inside a motorhome.) Then get the word out in every possible way, from fliers to social networks, casting as wide a net as possible. When signing with an online service, know what you are getting, for what price, and for how long.
Even the best-trained pet may bolt when frightened, so it’s important to have it on a leash before leaving the motorhome. This is especially important when entering territory that is unknown to the pet, such as a roadside park or a new campsite. In situations such as these, a pet is confronted with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and scents. It could panic and flee.