Ridiculous or not? Responsible travelers vacation with their pets

Over the toyears, my incendiary writings have offended everyone from airline pilots to card-carrying frequent fliers to travel agents. I make no apologies for ticking them off.

But nothing — nothing! — comes close to the bite of angry pet owners.

Here’s what happened: A few weeks ago, in preparation for a lengthy roadtrip I’m taking with my family, I asked readers to help me after I hit an unexpected snag. Our plans to send our three Bengal cats to live with a relative had fallen through, and now we had to make a difficult choice about the kitties. We could board them in a kennel, find a pet sitter, hire a housesitter, or find a new, temporary home for them.

It was a quiet Sunday in August and I expected a few polite suggestions from my readers. Instead, within seconds of posting the article, someone on Twitter who I’d never heard of said she’d “unfollowed” me because of the “sad” post. Within hours, I had more than a hundred comments — many from foaming-at-the-mouth pet fans.

My crime? I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest.

I’ll try to summarize the pro-pet side without quoting anyone, since I love all of my readers and don’t want to embarrass them. The mainstream critics said I was behaving as if my pets were disposable, and that, if nothing else, I was setting a bad example for my kids by “abandoning” the felines. Others took a more extreme view. They described the bond between animal and human as almost holy, that I was bound to either stay home or take the cats along, and that by leaving, I had broken a sacred trust.

Some of the commenters were downright nasty about it. I decided to keep their rants on the site because, as always, they say more about them than about me. Plus, they’re highly entertaining. Oh, you’ll find a snarky rebuttal from yours truly here and there, but only because you demand it.

The question this catfight raises is the following one: At a time when many otherwise rational people feel that dogs and cats are equal to people, am I obligated to take my pets on vacation?

If you’re as surprised as I am that people exist who hold these views, who would even try to suggest that responsible pet owners must include their animal companions in their travel plans, let me connect a few dots for you.

We’ll start with the “enormous brown honking” pig that terrorized passengers on a US Airways flight 11 years ago. Why? Because it was a therapy animal for one of the passengers.

See, the cruelty-free crowd think their animals love them and can’t live without them. That may or may not be true. But there is no doubt that the pet owners can’t live without their pigs. Or dogs. Or cats. So they bring them along. They feel it is a higher calling, even when it inconveniences other travelers. And even when it’s obvious the pet would be far happier wallowing in mud.

Fast-forward to 2004: A gray cat named Gin escapes from his cage on a flight from Vienna to Brussels about 20 miles after takeoff. Although Gin was a show cat, he apparently also had some training as a jihadist. He promptly scurried up to the flight deck, where he attacked the pilot. The plane had to make an emergency landing.

Another dot to connect is the 2010 incident in which a small dog on a flight from Newark to Phoenix broke loose and bit a flight attendant and another passenger. The flight was diverted to Pittsburgh, where the victims were treated and released.

Although the airline had reportedly asked the dog owner to leave her canine in a cage under her seat, per airline policy, she decided to take it out to play with it. (I’m sure she felt it needed her.) Which is when it took off.

What all of these incidents suggest to me is that these well-meaning but somewhat misguided animal “guardians” are far more common than anyone thought.

Also, they do not tolerate dissent. These anthropomorphizers believe they have the moral high ground, and that by shouting down anyone who disagrees with them, they can win.

Fortunately, my cat problem had a happy ending. One charitable reader, who also happened to be a neighbor, agreed to look after the cats while we were away. (Take a bow, Joyce!)

My views on pet ownership haven’t changed as the result of this tussle. I love my cats, but I love my kids even more. I remain a proud carnivore (burgers, mmmmm!). I don’t believe cats, dogs or pigs belong on a plane, in a hotel, or a rental car unless maybe you’re moving somewhere, and even then, they should be safely confined to a carrier.

Incidentally, I think this represents the view of the average American.

As for the “pets-are-people-too” argument — I’ll believe that when my cats ask to join us on vacation.

(Photo: kevind ooley/Flickr Creative Commons)

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.