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Travelling Spain with Two Dogs & a Parrot

With a good internet connection, I can work remotely from anywhere, so my husband Rob & I took advantage of this & are travelling Spain with our pets & everything we own packed into an estate car with roof-box.

On the Ferry to Spain
Friday, July 13, 2018 @ 7:47 AM

Once the worry of pet paperwork was behind us, we had the concern of their accommodation on the ferry.  Britanny Ferries do have pet friendly cabins, but with just one dog allowed in each, it wouldn't have been practical to reserve two, had any even been available as these cabins are booked-up a very long way in advance.

As we had a parrot as well as the two dogs, I had called Brittany Ferries to find out what would happen to Woody, our African Grey.  Only dogs are allowed out of the car into pre-booked cabins or kennels & all other pets need to be kept in the vehicle for the duration of the sailing.  Therefore, I was advised to book on the Brittany Ferries flagship, the new Pont Aven due to its heated & ventilated car decks.

I booked our tickets in March 2017 looking for the first sailing in September on the Pont Aven with two large kennels available.  The website & booking form give sizes with examples of breeds which will fit into each.  As they refuse to admit dogs too large for any booked kennel, I erred on the safe side with the size of our dogs (a particularly big Cocker & Collie-cross only a little larger) & booked two of the biggest.  The first available single ferry tickets with two large dog kennels were on 24th September.  For a £35 deposit I grabbed these to work out the finer paperwork details later.

Dogs have to be muzzled when on the ferry & out of the car so we'd spent time at home getting Max & Roxy used to theirs.  However, despite my fears, they didn't have to wear them in the car during our long wait to board.  As pet owners (with a yellow sticker in the windscreen to indicate this), we were in the last few cars to embark & our fears of exhaust fumes from lots of vehicles entering the car deck were unfounded.

This was one stress less.  Birds are very sensitive to carbon monoxide (think mines & canaries), so we had worried for Woody.  But we had to say a hurried goodbye to her as we muzzled Max & Roxy to join other passengers & dogs leaving their cars.

It was a little hectic departing the car which was parked closely with other pet owner vehicles, everyone trying to head for the lift with dogs of varying sizes & temperment.  I was trying to put the muzzles on & grab bedding, bags & food supplies.  Rob was worrying about Woody & really didn't want to leave her.

Nervous Roxy panicked & had to be lifted to the lift where we joined other dog lovers on the ascent to deck 9 - the carry-handle on the back of her harness is ideal for this & also well-used...  I'd been issued with a magnetic pass for each of the dogs marked with kennel numbers, but as these were situated up a flight of steps, we went straight-on & into the outside exercise area.  This is a fenced-off area at the back of the helepad deck with a few wooden benches, a hose & bins for cleaning-up mess.  Clutching two dog leads (with dogs attached), together with a bag of essentials (dog food & bowls, blankets, a few toiletries etc), I plonked myself down on the nearest bench.  Roxy immediately crammed herself under the bench, her back against the wire fence & Rob disappeared to attempt to fetch Woody. I was stuck, as dogs have to remain on leads & I was unable to manoeuvre them up the stairs on my own.  However, I was also unwilling to cage them so soon.

It was a foggy day & I sat watching what I could of our departure out of Plymouth & took advantage of a mobile signal to call my two adult children before it was too late.  An age later Rob returned, minus Woody.  Unsurprisingly, he was not allowed to bring her out of the car.  He was feeling dejected, so I poured some of his birthday whisky into his birthday parrot mug & left him to go find food.  Returning with a pizza, he was in a much brighter mood & we spent until dark happily chatting to other dog owners, exchanging stories & experiences.

Eventually, we were cold & weary so took the dogs to their 'kennels'.  These are rows of metal cages, the smallest on a row above the largest, in an unheated room,  noisy with barking dogs.  The side walls between cages are solid, so despite having a neighbouring cage each, we put Max & Roxy in together with blankets, water & a supply of food & reluctantly left them.  I think we could have coped with the medium sized-cages, but having a large one at least meant they could be together. 

Some dogs had been very well cared-for with their own beds & toys, other owners hadn't been as thoughtful.  I'd brought an old fleece that they were familiar with, cut into two & plastic food bowels.  I was prepared to throw the fleece, anticipating some mess or vomit.  There were steel containers fastened to the cage doors for water, so I filled this from the tap available, put some dried food in their bowls & reluctantly left them.  At least they were together & hopefully wouldn't feel totally abandoned.

After refreshments in the cafe, we had an hour until 9pm when we'd be allowed to access the car to check on Woody.  We would be escorted to the car deck (weather & staff availability permitting) at 9pm & 8am the following morning.   Accessing our cabin for the first time, I rested, had a dram, but was unable to settle & have a nap in my bunk.

At 9pm we gathered at the information desk with other cat & parrot owners - surprisingly, there were four other parrots onboard!  Once again, we exchanged stories, in particular about our individual experiences of the paperwork required to export parrots from the UK to Spain.  Access to the car decks during the 24 hour crossing is allowed once in the evening & then again in the morning, but only in good weather & we were fortunate.

Woody seemed to be fine & totally unpurturbed by being shut in the car.  We ensured she had a supply of food, Rob fussed her & I spoke to her before leaving her for the night.  Not wanting to stress the dogs by raising their hopes of being freed if they saw us, we retired to bed.  I believe that there was entertainment, show, a cinema & shops to explore on the ferry, but we saw none of them!

After a sleepless night & breakfast, we were waiting impatiently & a little warily at 8am ready to go see Woody - who was absolutely fine & the other owners confirmed their parrots were too.  One of the cat owners' felines had been sick so that cannot have been a nice greeting when the car was accessed!  We packed-up the cabin, knowing once the dogs were freed, we'd be staying on the dog-deck with them.  Max & Roxy seemed to be no worse for their experience & of course, absolutely delighted to see us.

It was a  beautiful sunny morning & pleasantly warm, but with no sign of land, we spent a pleasant few hours speaking to other dog owners again.  A good hour before landing, we were then called to return our dogs to the car where we had to leave them, another unsettling process.  It had clouded over, but we excitedly watched Spain approach.

Pet owners were the first to be alllowed access to their vehicles & after docking, we were soon back in a dog pongy car & out on our way in Spain & a new life!


View back across the hele-pad to the fenced dog enclosure & view from the top of the steps over the dog exercise area.

The steps on the left lead up-to the kennel area


Like 2


DANNI1 said:
Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 8:25 AM

Thank you for writing this, it has given me a good insight into taking a dog on the ferry. I may have to try and convince my husband to take the euro tunnel instead. The part about the dogs barking all night would not be good for my young dog. I must say though everything else sounded good.
Thanks again x

vickya said:
Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

Why did you decide on the ferry instead of tunnel? Even that needed organisation. We brought 2 Spanish dogs and 2 cats back
that way in 2009 and messed up the cat passport so they had 3 mths in quarantine.

vickya said:
Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

Why did you decide on the ferry instead of tunnel? Even that needed organisation. We brought 2 Spanish dogs and 2 cats back
that way in 2009 and messed up the cat passport so they had 3 mths in quarantine.

Clifford Tracy said:
Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 1:39 PM

We love the storey and found it very interesting and well written.
Although we have done the ferries on many occasions when taking our miniature Schnauzer we do the Euro tunnel and have hotel stop-overs each way. All very easy and relaxing. Taking Molly presents us with no problems as long as one gets organized it's a great way to travel. We always do it with two stop-overs but next time it will be three---at 83 I might even make it four!!

nancybenn said:
Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 1:56 PM

@Danni1 - the dogs were barking when we took ours into the kennels, but I've no idea whether they stopped during the night as we didn't return until morning, when they were fine & very pleased to see us.

@Vickya - we didn't want the long drive through France (fuel, tolls & wear & tear on the car) & we would have needed exportation/importation paperwork for the parrot into both France & Spain. As we were heading for Spain, taking the ferry cut down on the extra country border. What a shame about having to put your cats into quarantine!

@Clifford Tracy - it seems that you have found the best way to travel for your own circumstances & enjoy the leisurely journey too :-)

Stinkey said:
Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 9:51 AM

Very interesting info..we've 3 dogs waiting to move to Spain (although they don't know it ?) so seeing has mrs Stinkey doesn't enjoy the ferry.we will take the shorter crossing..good luck guys x

Dalius Poskus said:
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 @ 7:34 AM

Hi. We booked a ferries to spain in couple of months too. And I have a question for someone who travel with their dogs in ferry.
When i done booking (on the phone) ladie from Britain ferry told me the size of kennels and she said only available the smaller one which is not that small i think 800mm x 1000mm. And she asked what breed is my dog. I said border collie. She said he'll be fine and i booked small kennel. But now im reading that dogs has to be under 10kg for small kennel. Obviously my is heaver (20kg) but is not big and kenell size i think its good.
What do you think woul brittany ferries would let us in with ourndogbinto small kennel?

Nancy Benn said:
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 @ 2:37 PM

Hi Dalius
I cannot remember anyone checking our dogs into the kennels, comparing sizes to the booking etc. The cages are quite large as both my dogs were around 20kg (a Cocker and another like a small Collie) and I booked two of the largest. Then, on the night, I put both in the same cage together for comfort as there was sufficient space.
I can't advise on your situation, but that was my experience.
Good luck

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