CHENNAI: Most travellers are unaware of the facilities provided by the Indian Railways with regards to travelling with pets. Train travel is an economically viable option. Also it is ideal for big dogs, anxious dogs, not fit to fly dogs.
In the case of dogs, two travel options are available. A dog can be taken in a coupe (2 berths) or a cabin (4 berths) of a train in AC First Class or First Class (non-AC). Dogs are strictly not allowed to be carried in AC Sleeper coaches, AC chair car coaches and second class coaches. Alternatively, dogs can travel specially designed boxes in the luggage van which I will strongly advise against. It’s better to always book the entire cabin for yourself, because the rule states that if your co-passenger objects to your pet, you must remove your pet to the dog-box. So, ensure that all seats in the coupe are booked by you so no one is there to object to your pet.
Also note that one passenger can carry a maximum of two pets. Ask your vet to provide a health certificate/fit to travel within a day of travel. Original vaccination records and a photocopy are mandatory too.
Coupe will not be allotted until four hours before travel. Go to the reservation office a day before travel and submit an application at the source station to allot a coupe of two people as you are travelling with pets. Preference is as follows: VIP, honeymooners, then pets. In case of four tickets, you don’t need to give this application as you will get a cabin to yourself.
I recommend making a visit to the respective station in your city to meet with the booking officials to get some kind of verbal confirmation/assurance that you can, in fact, travel with a dog. Once you have booked your rail tickets, it is advisable to write to the chief commercial officer to explain your case of a travelling pet in order to ensure that you are allotted a coupe or a cabin and not randomly ordered berths. Sometimes, the Railway officials may ask you to send the application to the booking office too so those in charge of allocating VIPs last-minute tickets know that a) you have requested a cabin and b) you are travelling with a pet.
It is advisable to reach the station well in advance before you commence your journey so as to visit the parcel/cargo dispatch department, where luggage charges based on the weight of your pet must be fulfilled. Post this, your pet will be assigned a tag bearing dispatch details. This is a crucial part of journeying with pets as railway authorities are quick to fine travellers carrying un-booked dogs!
You are now free to start your hassle-free travel with your pets. A busy Indian railway station is going to be highly stimulating for the dog.
Follow these tips to make sure your pet is comfortable too:
Walk your dog before the journey, so that they are tired and rest during the journey.
Make sure they have peed/pooped before boarding the train.
Carry a few treats and fun toys to occupy your dog at the station and in the train.
Don’t over-feed. A light meal on the day of travel should suffice (check with the vet, of course.)
Make sure there is fresh water available for your dog throughout the journey. NEVER leave your dog unattended.
The author is a former senior corporate executive actively involved in rescues, rehabilitation and re-homing of dogs