From the road: is it cruel to travel with animals?

By: Tony Allsop, Photography by: Tony and Denyse Allsop


Tony Allsop discusses whether travelling with pets is as hard on the animals as it is on their owners.

From the road: is it cruel to travel with animals?
From the road:
MY LAST BLOG about kids in van parks drew many comments, from parents to pet-owners. Now, I’d like to offer my two cents about travelling with animals.

Denyse and I travelled to local caravan parks with our German Shepherd, Shaka, and later with another German Shepherd, Freya. (Some readers may recall meeting them at Travellers Rest Caravan Park at Midge Point, Qld where they were very popular with children.) Eventually, we realised that on longer trips it was hard on the dog, and on us, and we do not travel with a pet these days.

Animals are not allowed in national parks and some forestry reserves, and for very good reason, but where can one leave a pet? Certainly not in a hot, locked vehicle. In most cases, travellers simply skip national parks and miss out on some of the most scenic spots in the country. There are, however, a few who smuggle their pets into NPs to camp. There are substantial fines if you are caught but more importantly, pets can leave scents that disrupt the natural behaviour patterns of native animals.

Leaving pets alone is rarely a good idea. On a trip out west last year we stopped at a roadside rest area. The only shelter we could use had a pug dog tied to every post (see pic). As we approached with our lunch, the dogs barked at us. These owners were certainly inconsiderate of other travellers.

If friends invite you over for dinner, is it rude to take the dog with you and tie it to their van? I'm certain many readers have witnessed a dog left in or by a van to bark and whine for hours while the owner is absent. Apart from being disruptive, is it not cruel to leave a pet on its own for hours?

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have noticed a trend in some four-star parks to allow pets and put in fewer children’s playgrounds, because park owners have told us animals are less trouble than children. It is true that intelligent dogs with responsible owners, like Alan Hamilton, pictured above with his dog Tuppence, are certainly not uncommon in van parks, and often exist without causing a problem.

However, in a four-star park in north QLD recently, we had a problem. This particular park is known for enforcing its strict policy on dogs. Denyse and I were walking along the park road when a small dog rushed out on a long retractable lead, crossed an empty site and nipped Denyse on the leg. When I yelled at it, the owner, who saw the whole thing, told me not to yell at his dog.

Later on, when the dog was off its lead, it ran over to our site and soiled our slab. Our neighbour saw it and approached the park manager, who gave the dog's owners a stern warning. Such incidents not only spoil things for other pet owners, they can result in bonds being payable, or the risk of injury for other holidayers.

We haven't had any major problems with barking dogs, as owners do try to stop this. There have been problems with dog droppings though. A couple of times we have been unhooking our van on our allocated site, unknowingly stepped in it, and even trapsed it through our van... not nice!

I put it down to the owners, who must be responsible otherwise they could ruin the privilege for all, not to mention causing discomfort or harm to their own pets.

At the Top Tourist Park at Cania Gorge in Qld, our neighbours owned a very well-behaved cat. They took it for walks on a leash and it was no trouble at all. Top marks here.

Some van parks have a separate section for travellers with animals, and others run a "day minding kennel" where owners may leave their pets while they travel, shop and visit local parks. Apart from this, is the only other solution to leave your beloved pooch behind?

What do readers think?

Tip: Remember, if you intend to leave your dog in a kennels while away, a vaccination certificate must be produced in some states.

Tony and Denyse Allsop are long-standing contributors to Caravan World.