Traveling on Spirit of Tasmania with Your Pet
Our border collie Chika has traveled on the Spirit of Tasmania and with some planning, the experience was positive. This article is to provide some basic information about traveling with your dog (pet) on the Spirit of Tasmania.
Which Pets Can Travel?
According to the Spirit of Tasmania website “dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, some birds, chickens and ducks may travel on the Spirit of Tasmania”. The website also provides a list of animals that cannot travel on the Spirit of Tasmania, if in doubt or have any questions it would be best to ring customer service.
Booking Your Pet onto the Spirit of Tasmania
Booking an eligible pet onto the Spirit of Tasmania is simple and straight forward using the online booking form. There is a section of the online form titled “Who’s Going” which along with how many in your crew including your pets. Just select your number of pets.
Further in completing the form you will need to select the number of kennels you will need for your pets. According to the Spirit of Tasmania website you will need to book one kennel per pet “unless the animal is a mother with pups or kittens.” It also states on the online booking form “if traveling with a pet, it is a requirement that your pet travels in a Spirit of Tasmania kennel”, this is inaccurate but this will be discussed further down. Currently each kennel on board costs $22 per kennel each way.
Requirements for Dogs
Biosecurity Tasmania, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment requires that any dog entering Tasmania must have been treated with “praziquantel at a dose rate of 5 mg/kg body weight within 14 days before entry to Tasmania” and evidence will need to be provided when entering Tasmania. This evidence can be a letter or certificate from your vet, a statutory declaration by the owner, or the pill packet accompanied by the receipt.
Chika was taken to our local vet in NSW within the 14 days and given the medication (along with having all her other vaccinations for the year). Not sure if it’s always the case but the tablet given to Chika was massive and I mean the size of two big horse tablets. Thankfully Chika is so motivated by food that when the vet broke it into two halves and hid them in food she gulped it down without a thought. Other dogs may not be so compliant! Chika had no side effects from any of her vaccinations.
Decision to Sedate Chika
Our Ms Chika, love her, is the sweetest dog but she has anxieties which are triggered by many things including noises and unfamiliar environments, two things to be expected when traveling on the Spirit of Tasmania. Flying too has the same concerns for a dog with anxiety plus it is much more costly, and of course leaving her at home was not an option. Is it important to note that the voyage across the bass strait is about 10 hrs and once on board you cannot see or check on your dog (pet) until your docked at the next port.
With all this in mind and wanting to make the crossing as stress free as possible for Chika (and us, so we were less worried) we spoke to our vet about a mild sedative. Chika was prescribed a sedative which we tested on her a couple of days before we sailed as per the vet’s instructions. We found the medication made her chilled and maybe she laid around sleeping more than usual but she was not unresponsive and it did not turn her off her food.
On the day we sailed we gave Chika her dose 30 mins before departure, again as directed by the vet. In all honesty, we cannot say for sure exactly how she went during the voyage given we couldn’t check on her however on collecting her at the end she was calm and very happy to see us.
We were happy with our decision to use a mild sedative. It’s not something we have done any other time and we will do again for the return journey. It is up to each owner to make the decision if this is needed or not. Speak to your vet.
Pre-Sailing Phone Call
About 7 – 14 days before your sail date a representative from the Spirit of Tasmania will call you if you have booked for any pets. We were asked what breed of dog Chika is and reminded about the vaccination requirements which we had completed by that time. It is also an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
Boarding and Check In
On sailing day as we drove onto the jetty (before actually boarding the ship) we were asked if we had our dog and were given a yellow sign to hang from our rear vision mirror. Interestingly we were asked if we wanted to leave Chika in our car rather than put her in the kennel (hence the earlier statement about pets having to travel in Spirit of Tasmania kennels being inaccurate). According to Spirit of Tasmania information on the day a waiver form has to completed and signed if your pet is to remain in your vehicle for the voyage.
There was some time spent waiting on the jetty, about 45 mins, before boarding started and during this time vehicles are turned off. You are permitted to get out of your vehicle so we used this to walk Chika around given we knew how long she would be in a kennel for once we boarded.
We gave serious thoughts to leaving Chika in our car for the voyage but we decided to put her in the kennel given we didn’t know if she would be seasick and we couldn’t secure a source of water for her.
Kennels are on levels 3 and 5 of the ship and face out towards the vehicles that are parked on the decks. The kennels are in stacked rows with the smaller kennels above the large kennels. They have three solid metal walls and a wire/cage door at the front with a slide lock. There is also a secure metal dish for water.
The instructions are to put your pet in a suitably sized kennel. We have heard stories of small dogs being put in large kennels leaving a shortage for large dogs. When we traveled there were many more kennels than pets and there are signs up saying pets will be moved to appropriate kennels if required so just ask if you need assistance with this.
We added a towel for Chika to lie on. We opted not to provide food or anything to chew in case something went wrong while we were unable to check on her. Spirit of Tasmania claim to check during the crossing on your behalf and I don’t doubt them but its best to safer than sorry.
As you disembark the ship, firstly you return to your vehicles and collect your pet/s at this time as well. On collecting Chika she appeared calm but also happy to see us. There were no signs of any distress or stress we could see and that night (we travelled during the day) she slept as well as she ever has.
On driving off the ship in Devonport, Tasmania we had the vets certificate ready but no one asked to see it. This may different at other times so be sure to have yours ready to ensure a quick disembarkation.
Traveling on the Spirit of Tasmania with Chika was fairly stress free (still worried, couldn’t help it) experience for us and her. That said, each owner needs to make their own decisions about traveling (or not) on the Spirit of Tasmania with their pets and how. Tasmania has been a great experience for all of us including Chika.