Snowbirding 101

The trials and rewards of travelling with your pets

Tips on keeping you, your neighbours and your pets happy in the RV park and on the road

Taking pets camping in an RV unit
Keeping their routines stable helps keep your pets content.

Question: We’re in the midst of making plans for our first snowbird winter. We can’t imagine leaving Mutt and Jeff, our dog and cat, for that long, so we’ll take them with us. Any suggestions or tips you might have would be most appreciated.                                                                 

Answer: Snowbirding with our pets is both wonderful and a pain. We love them dearly and we want to give them the best care possible, but sometimes they can create discontent and conflict. Be prepared!

Taking pets into the U.S.A.

Dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before entering the United States, except for puppies less than three months of age. Some geographical areas are prone to certain diseases and some local governments have breed restrictions, so check with the local authorities where you are going.

As a general rule, there are no restrictions on bringing domestic cats into the U.S. and they don’t have any special vaccination requirements.
Now birds are a different story. All birds are subject to controls and restrictions and nearly all birds require permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We have friends who had to leave their parrots at a quarantine centre for 30 days because they did not get a permit.

Before you go

Medications: Are any of your pets on medication? It is sometimes difficult to get the same medications in another country. If possible, take what you need with you.

Food: Most animals do best if you can keep their routines stable. If your pet is used to a particular food, either take food with you or try to change over gradually to a more easily available food.

Routine: Keeping their routines stable helps keep your pets content, and that helps keep us all happy. If they have favourite toys, don’t forget to bring them. Some dogs have grown to consider those large portable carrying kennels as their safe place. It is comforting for everyone to bring them along.

Will the RV park allow your pet? Most RV parks have some restrictions about size and type of animals they will accept. Check with your park host to make sure your pets will be accepted.

Travelling with pets

When they are pulling a trailer, some RVers take their animals in the vehicle with them, while others leave them it the trailer. Rule of thumb? Have your animals travel wherever they are most content.

Do your dogs bark while you are not there? Ours did and we didn’t know it until one of our neighbours got quite annoyed and reported us to the park management. We found a special no-bark collar that reminded Buddy that he needed to keep quiet when he heard a strange noise.

A number of RVers have portable kennels they set up outside their RVs to give the dogs some outside time, or to give the people some inside time without the dogs being underfoot.

Cats have litter boxes, usually will not eat all the food at once, tend to be independent and do not bark, so they may be easily left in the air-conditioned RV if you take side trips. Dogs, on the other hand, do not afford us this luxury. They need to be cared for or to accompany us when we take side trips.

Fortunately, many more facilities are offering services for visitors with animals. When we first started travelling, we couldn’t even find a motel that would take dogs. Now, many places are able and willing to accommodate pets. Some have size or breed restrictions and still others have significant extra charges.
Most RV parks have special dog areas and some now provide fenced areas where dogs can be off-leash and socialize. Others are still not dog-friendly and insist that visitors not walk their dogs anywhere but the special areas.

The two biggest commandments

There are two no-excuse rules you must follow when exposing the rest of your RV neighbours to your pets, primarily dogs:

1. Keep your animals under control. I know it is hard to believe, but there are a few folks who do not like animals and certainly do not appreciate them invading their space. Always, always, always keep your dogs leashed when they are not confined to your site and control their barking. Like our friend said . . . “your rights go as far as your neighbour’s ears.”

2. Pick up the poop. Always, always, always clean up after your pets. The number one complaint received by RV park managers is that pet owners don’t pick up after their dogs.

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