It is quite tricky to interview someone who runs a pet transfer business: they are always on the move. “I can see you on Tuesday when I get off the ferry from Barcelona”, Caroline tells me, “Then I’m back on the road the next day back to the UK.” We meet at the Gran Buffet in Son Bugadelles because her trusty van is in for a service between trips, and over a couple of coffees we talk about her business, Magic Car-Pet, and life on the road.
I love the name, it’s very clever! CAROLINE: Thanks! It’s a play on words obviously, but I wanted as well to give the idea of your beloved cat or dog flying in style on a magic carpet, being whisked to their destination.
So, what exactly do you do? Well, there’s a question! In essence I take dogs and cats from Mallorca to the UK and back again. Their owners book me to transport their pets either way. It’s a door to door service so I collect the animals from where they are and deliver them to where they need to be. But there is much more to it as you can imagine. Since Brexit there is import and export paperwork which needs to be done beforehand, each animal must have a microchip, and vaccines that have to be up to date. Then all the paperwork and the microchip has to be in the same name, you’d be surprised how often that isn’t the case! Or the vaccines have been dated wrongly by the vet, or the vet hasn’t stamped the Pet Passport properly. You can be refused entry at the border if it is not in order, so I spend time advising the owners of what they need to do and crucially, when they need to do it. I’ve got to know the customs people in the UK and it’s important to keep up to date with the changes so I am always trying to refine the process and make it as easy as possible for me and the owners.
How many animals can you move in one trip? I’m only allowed by law to take five animals at a time across Europe but also across the border. And that’s something that also came in a couple of years ago when it was unilaterally decided. They did not want to have vans going across with 40 animals in them because there’s so many of these animals from Eastern Europe Puppy Mills. I heard about a van where they literally had a lap dancing pole in the middle of this van with the dogs just tied to it.
How did you get into transporting pets? I have always loved animals, and I had run an organisation called Palma Dogs which was designed to connect volunteers to dogs living in the rescue shelters. I have a lot of experience with a huge range of personalities and types of dogs and cats. There was a need for the service because the UK is one of the only places in the world I think where you can’t fly in with a small pet in the cabin. If someone wants to fly with their little Pekinese to Dusseldorf they can as long as it is under eight kilos and it only costs €50 to have them in the cabin with you. But into the UK, they have to fly cargo and it makes it ridiculously expensive for the owners. So, when I decided to leave the yachting world which I had been in for thirty years that this was my opportunity to start my business.
How long does it take to get from Mallorca to the UK by road? Well, I’m schlepping across France, which is actually much bigger than you remember. It’s a huge country, and I sort of go diagonally across it. We take regular pee breaks, for them and for me! So we take around 36 hours to get from door to door, including the ferries and stopping overnight in a hotel if we need to.
How do you get your passengers to relax during the journey? I try to look at it as if they’re my pets. I always respect them for who they are and what they’re going through, they don’t know where they are going or why they are being moved. I’m with the animals all of the time so although some of them don’t like being in transit, the majority settle down and relax. I talk to them whilst I am driving, we listen to the radio, we listen to podcasts, and treats help a lot for them to get to know me and trust me. I’m a bit of a treat queen. Cats are normally a bit more vocal about their displeasure. Every animal is different, some need attention, others don’t want attention, other ones just sort of curl up and go to sleep and they’re like, “Okay, well this is it.” Some owners want their pet to have sedation, but we have to be careful with that as well. Depending on the animal we might try hemp oil, or other types of natural sedation.
Let’s talk about the practicalities of peeing. Well, I’m a middle aged woman. So I have to stop every two and a half to three hours anyway! The dogs always get walked every two and a half three hours. I go for a walk when I go for a pee and coffee first. And then I walk the dogs because I don’t need anyone to see that there’s animals in the van. I don’t signwrite the van as I don’t want to draw attention to them. You do have to legally have a notice that says that you’ve got live animals in the van. If a cat does a poo or a pee in their litter tray while we’re driving along, I stop at the next service station. In between trips the van is always disinfected, and all of the animals have to have had their flea and worm treatments prior to travelling as well.
What about the ferries? I really like to use particular ferries because I can take the animals into the cabin with me, or the bigger dogs can stay in a kennel that is close to the same deck as the cabin. I always try to make them as comfortable as possible and feel as safe as possible. We all take a nap together normally!
And when the pets get to their destinations? It’s very sweet, often the dogs go nuts when they see their owners again. I took a very noisy Burmese to Harrogate and when his owner took him out of his travel box he just kind of melted into his neck which was beautiful to see. They were both kind of purring when they were reunited, my heart melted.
You can find more information about Caroline and Magic Car-Pet on https://www.facebook.com/MallorcatoUKPetTransfer her Facebook page. You can hear the longer version of this interview on the Majorca Mallorca Podcast which is released every Monday.
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