By Ian Lewis
Tens of thousands of pet-loving Brits have not holidayed abroad for years because of their animals, new research has found.
Just over two per cent of people responding to a survey admitted they had gone without a foreign holiday for five years, opting to stay at home with their pets instead because of emotional ties to the animals or the cost of boarding.
The survey by the new and free pet-sitting service Petaround.com found a quarter of pet-owning families plan to forego a summer holiday this year because of the rising cost of kennels and animal-sitters.
Many said they either couldn't rely on friends or family to look after their dogs or cats or were too embarrassed to even ask.
Some, meanwhile, said the thought of "abandoning" their pets made them feel guilty, even if they were only planning a short break, while others were worried about their animals' welfare if they opted for cheap boarding facilities.
Almost half the households in Britain are thought to have at least one pet with the UK's total pet population estimated at 27 million.
But caring for a beloved pet can take its toll on travel plans with almost a quarter of those surveyed saying that although they would still take at least one weekend break this summer, the cost and hassle of organising lengthy pet-sitting had made them scale back their holiday plans.
The majority said although changes made last year by DEFRA to the Pet Travel Scheme had made it easier to take animals abroad they still think it is "impractical" to take them.
Petaround.com founder Phil Harris said: "Pets bring so much joy to people, but they do require constant care and as the survey shows, this can cause problems when planning to go abroad."
He said many could not always rely on friends or family to help out with pet-sitting while professional boarding could prove "very expensive" with some owners reluctant to entrust their animals into the care of others.
Petaround.com puts people in touch with other animal lovers who are willing to look after their pet, often for free.
Mr Harris said: "The real experts are the pet owners themselves so leaving your pet - be it a dog, cat, bird or more exotic animal - with someone who currently owns, or has owned, the same animal is great peace of mind and a win-win situation for everyone."